Industrial action by Aer Lingus pilots to proceed after Labour Court meetings

Industrial action by Aer Lingus pilots is set to go ahead after their representatives and the airline set out their respective stalls at meetings at the Irish Labour Court.

A resolution to the bitter dispute over pay does not look imminent after the court told both sides it would not be intervening at the present time.

Tens of thousands of passengers’ flights have been cancelled due to an indefinite work-to-rule due to begin on Wednesday and an eight-hour strike announced for Saturday.

The cancellation of a further 50 flights, on July 1 and 2, was announced on Tuesday. They add to the 200-plus cancellations already announced by the airline.

The airline and the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association (IALPA), a branch of the Forsa trade union, have been involved in a heated exchange of words in recent days, with each accusing the other of not engaging.

The pilots are seeking a pay increase of 24%, which they say equates to inflation since the last pay rise in 2019.

Aer Lingus has said it is willing to offer pay increases of 12.5% or above if “improvements in productivity and flexibility” are discussed.

Both sides agreed to attend separate meetings at the Labour Court in Dublin on Tuesday to provide briefings on the industrial stand-off.

Aer Lingus industrial action
Ialpa president Mark Tighe arrives for a meeting at the Labour Court in Dublin (Gareth Chaney/PA)

After its meeting, Aer Lingus said it was “disappointed” the Labour Court had assessed that it could not currently assist to bridge the gap between the sides.

“Aer Lingus has made it clear that it remains available for discussions both directly and through the state’s industrial relations framework,” the airline’s statement added.

“Aer Lingus will continue to focus on minimising the disruption caused to customers by IALPA’s industrial action.

“Aer Lingus is calling upon Forsa/IALPA to consider the damage that its continued industrial action is inflicting upon passengers, the company and the Irish economy.”

Emerging from the court, IALPA president Mark Tighe made clear the action would proceed.

“The actions continue as they are notified and will continue until there is a resolution,” he said.

Irish premier Simon Harris has asked both sides to “dig deep” in an attempt to come to a resolution.

The Taoiseach said it was “absolutely vital” that both sides engage in talks to find a resolution.

“My challenge to the parties now is to bring that engagement forward, rather than putting people through a prolonged period of agony and chaos, and then engaging in the end anyway,” Mr Harris said on Tuesday.

“This dispute will be settled the same way every dispute is settled: compromise, engagement, sitting around a table. That’s what needs to happen.”

He said there would be “very little sympathy” for anybody involved in cancelling family holidays and disrupting the tourism sector if they are not engaging “intensively”.

Irish deputy premier, Micheal Martin, said the proposed industrial action has caused “anxiety and stress” for thousands and thousands of people.

“I think there’s an urgent necessity now to resolve this, and to bring some peace of mind to people who’ve been planning all year to go on their holidays,” he said.

The 200 plus cancellations announced prior to Tuesday affected 35,000 passengers.

Aer Lingus said the further 50 flight cancellations for next Monday and Tuesday were required to “protect as many services as possible” from the planned industrial action.

The airline said that passengers due to travel between Wednesday June 26 and next Tuesday July 2 will continue to be given the option to change their flights for free, or to cancel their flight and claim a refund or voucher.

“Aer Lingus fully understands the anxiety being experienced by customers given the uncertainty caused by IALPA’s industrial action and is giving customers as many options as possible, should they wish to change their plans,” it added.