Dublin and Cork airport operator, DAA, has said it reserves its right to take legal action against the Unite trade union, if it does not adhere to existing resolution procedures to resolve a dispute over work practice changes.

Unite said last week that it planned to ballot craft worker members at DAA for industrial action up to and including a full withdrawal of labour.

This followed what it described as a 'complete U-turn' by the company who it claimed had now refused to implement the terms of a Labour Court Recommendation on the issue and whose only focus was now on "advancing its outsourcing agenda."

But in a detailed statement issued this evening, DAA said it had written to Unite and robustly refuted what is said was the union’s "misstatement of the company’s position."

"DAA has expressed its grave concern that Unite should threaten industrial action in breach of the existing resolution procedures already in place at Dublin Airport for disputes such as this," it said.

"Given the serious implications of a breach of such undertakings, DAA has advised the trade union that they must assume that when requested to mandate the carrying out of a ballot for industrial action, members of the Unite trade union could not have been advised of their obligations to follow in these dispute resolution procedures."

The company said it could not countenance any unlawful industrial action that would put Dublin Airport’s operations in jeopardy.

In the letter, DAA has asked the union to acknowledge its obligations to process any dispute through the agreed dispute resolution procedure "and that no industrial action of any kind will be promoted, encouraged or supported in any way by the union in breach of that obligation."

It has also asked Unite to inform members of their responsibilities and to withdraw its threat to ballot for industrial action.

"DAA awaits an urgent response from Unite and has advised that it must reserve its right to take legal proceedings in the event that they do not respond or do so in a manner that falls short of the trade union’s obligations," it said.

The airport operator has also written separately to Connect, which represents some of the 111 maintenance staff who are also in dispute with their employer, seeking assurances that it will stick to the binding resolution procedures.

On Friday, Connect said the workers will also ballot on industrial action, up to and including strike action, if management proceed with an attempt to outsource their roles to third party companies.

DAAsaid it wrote to the unions requesting talks on the outsourcing of maintenance to third parties after internal negotiations and processes involving the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court failed to resolve the dispute over proposed work practice changes.

Connect has said its representatives are available to engage with DAA management on all the outstanding issues, but only if the threat to outsource roles is removed.

DAA claims it has already agreed new work arrangements with 2,000 staff covering 93% of its employees in 25 agreements to date and what was being asked of workers represented by Unite and Connect was no different and in some instances, considerably less than those sought and agreed with the majority of other employees across Dublin Airport.