HomeBussinessHolidaymakers face possible disruption as Aer Lingus pilots ballot for industrial action

Holidaymakers face possible disruption as Aer Lingus pilots ballot for industrial action

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The airline has described the move as “entirely unnecessary” and said its almost 800 pilots are threatening future investment in the airline and risk “unnecessary disruption” for passengers.

The Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (IALPA) said it has started the ballot for industrial action in an on-going pay dispute.

Aer Lingus and pilots have been locked in the pay dispute for months and now it threatens to spill over into summer travel plans, including families gearing up for their annual holiday.

The Labour Court issued an interim recommendation last month that would have seen the pilots receive a 9.25pc pay increase. That proposal was accepted by Aer Lingus but overwhelmingly rejected by pilots.

The Irish Airline Pilots’ Association has been holding out for a 27pc pay increase over three years, while Aer Lingus has offered 12.25pc.

The proposal by the carrier included 3.75pc to pay for a 2019 crewing agreement, while the union’s demand included 7pc to cover the cost of the 2019 deal. That meant the proposed net increases from the airline would be 8.5pc, compared to the 20pc sought by the union.

An independent Pilot Pay Tribunal had last year recommended a 12.25pc increase in consolidated pay and a 1.5pc rise in unconsolidated pay for the pilots.

The Labour Court said there was a “lack of realism and common sense” during recent efforts to reach a pay deal with the pilots.

“IALPA’s failure to engage in the various independent processes in a responsible manner, now risks investment, growth and jobs in the airline into the future,” said an Aer Lingus spokesperson on Wednesday as the IALPA ballot was called. “It also threatens unnecessary disruption to customers.”

Captain Mark Tighe, the president of IALPA, insisted that the pay offers given to pilots so far do not reflect the enormous profitability of Aer Lingus.

“In April, the company reported €225m profit – an increase of 400pc on the previous year,” he said.

“In addition to this, pilots made huge sacrifices in their pay and working conditions during the pandemic in order to save the company,” he said. “However, management failed to reverse many of these measures, which include lower pay scales for new entrants, while they report bumper profits.”

Mr Tighe added: “It is vital that all pilots in the airline received equal pay for equal work, new pilots in Aer Lingus earn up to 10[c less pay than pilots who were employed in Aer Lingus prior to the pandemic”.

Aer Lingus said its pilots are already very well paid.

“We are surprised that IALPA commenced this ballot before they met directly with the airline – a meeting with management was being arranged but had not yet taken place,” said a spokesperson for the airline.

“Commencing of a ballot is disruptive to the airline’s customers and other employees,” they added.

“The Labour Court issued an interim recommendation which was accepted by Aer Lingus and outlined a clear path forward for continued engagement on the issue of pilot pay with a view to resolving it,” they said. “IALPA have rejected the outcomes of multiple independent processes which have sought to resolve the issue.”

Investment in the airline has already stalled as a result of the pay clash. Two new jets Aer Lingus was due to receive this year are now earmarked for other carriers within the IAG group, of which Aer Lingus is a part. IAG also owns British Airways, Iberia and Vueling.

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