Aer Lingus cancels more flights as union decision awaited

Pilots’ union Ialpa adjourns meeting on Labour Court proposal aimed at resolving dispute until later on Wednesday night

Aer Lingus pilots' union is waiting on clarification on the terms of a pay offer before deciding its next move. Photograph: Evan Treacy/PA Wire

Crunch talks on resolving the Aer Lingus pilots’ pay row adjourned for a period on Wednesday night but are due to restart later with some prospect of a final deal on the horizon.

The news comes after Aer Lingus cancelled 25 flights across Monday, July 15th and Tuesday, July 16th shortly before union leaders began considering a 17.75 pay increase offered to pilots in a bid to end the dispute.

The carrier added that it will announce the axing of further flights on Thursday morning. So far Aer Lingus has dropped 573 services since pilots began refusing to work overtime or accept roster changes under a work to rule initiated two weeks ago.

Irish Airline Pilots Association (Ialpa) officials are weighing the 17.75 per cent pay rise offered to Aer Lingus members in a Labour Court-brokered deal to which the company has already agreed.

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Union sources were hopeful of a final breakthrough in the dispute. However, it emerged earlier on Wednesday that while Ialpa executives could back the pay offer, they had raised concerns about Aer Lingus’ “punitive actions” against pilots.

These include changing sick leave terms and declaring that some pilots observing the work to rule failed to show for their flights, something that could ultimately lead to dismissal.

The union has yet to formally support or reject the Labour Court’s proposals.

The court on Wednesday responded to a request from Ialpa officials to clarify parts of a deal offering members at Aer Lingus pay rises of 17.75 per cent over three years.

The union’s executive had sought the clarification to aid its officials in deciding whether or not to recommend the proposal to pilots, who must vote on it. It met on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the response.

Executive members of Ialpa, part of trade union Fórsa, met on Tuesday to discuss the Labour Court recommendation of an extra 17.75 per cent.

However, they held off on issuing any recommendation one way or the other to members pending the court’s clarification of several points.

Once Ialpa’s executive decides on its position, meetings with members and a ballot will follow, a process that could take several days.

Whatever position Ialpa officials adopt is seen as crucial to ending the dispute, as its members are likely to support this when they vote.

Aer Lingus has already confirmed it would agree to the deal.

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Should pilots not accept the deal, Ialpa is likely to step up current industrial action at the airline which included an eight-hour strike along with the work to rule.

A key issue for Ialpa officials is their understanding of how the terms of the Labour Court recommendation affect different groups within the union. Along with the pay increase, the court recommends replacing Aer Lingus’s two pay scales with just one, boosting allowances and dropping an agreement allowing pilots to take extra summer leave.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas