HomeBussinessTravellers face uncertainty as Aer Lingus pilots vote on possible strike action

Travellers face uncertainty as Aer Lingus pilots vote on possible strike action

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Holidaymakers face a possible Aer Lingus strike in late June or early July as pilots vote on industrial action in a row with the airline.

The Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) said on Wednesday that it was balloting members in the airline on industrial action as it pursues a claim for pay increases of about 20 per cent.

Ialpa confirmed that it was recommending that pilots “vote in favour of industrial action, up to and including strike action”.

The vote threatens uncertainty for Irish holidaymakers and overseas tourists as Aer Lingus flies millions of passengers between this country, Europe and North America every summer.

Should pilots back industrial action, they could opt for an initial one-day strike by the end of this month or in early July.

Before that, pilots could observe a work to rule, meaning they operate strictly according to their contracts.

This would limit the airline’s flexibility at a time when pressure on its resources is high, potentially leading to some cancellations or delays.

Pilots began voting on Wednesday and will continue to June 12th, when the result will be known.

Any form of industrial action will require seven days’ notice from the union to the company.

However, the sides intend to meet next week, leaving an opportunity to avert industrial action, even if union members vote for it.

Talks are likely to take place around the time that the ballot’s result is confirmed. Sources on both sides expected Ialpa members to back their union’s call for industrial action.

Already this week pilots rejected Labour Court proposals that included 9.25 per cent pay increases and that the sides continue talks on several deadlocked issues.

Ialpa says it wants pay increases to take account of cost-of-living hikes and to bring Aer Lingus pilots’ pay into line with other airlines.

Captain Mark Tighe, its president, said offers made to pilots so far had failed to reflect the airline’s “enormous” profits, which were €225 million last year.

“Ialpa is seeking a pay increase of 23.8 per cent over three years, which is clearly reasonable and affordable for a profitable company such as Aer Lingus,” Capt Tighe said.

He maintained pilots had made huge sacrifices in pay and conditions during the pandemic.

Aer Lingus branded the ballot unnecessary, warning it would disrupt passengers and other workers.

“The Labour Court issued an interim recommendation which was accepted by Aer Lingus and outlined a clear path forward for continued engagement on pilot pay with a view to resolving it,” said the airline.

Aer Lingus says Ialpa sought an effective 27 per cent increase while rejecting a three-year company pay tribunal offer, worth 12.25 per cent, with a 1.5 per cent bonus, to which other workers have agreed.

The airline challenges Ialpa’s position that pilots have not had their pay increased since 2019, saying they received increments each year since then.

“Pilots at the airline are already very will paid,” Aer Lingus argued.

The airline has complex pay scales with multiple points covering co-pilots in their initial years to long-serving captains.

A captain with 26 years’ experience, now flying long-haul aircraft, earns up to €287,000 a year in basic pay and allowances. A co-pilot early in their career could earn €121,519.

Aer Lingus warns that Ialpa’s action risked future investment, growth and job creation at the airline.

The dispute prompted Aer Lingus’s owner, International Airlines Group, to allocate two new Airbus jets originally intended for the Irish carrier to other companies within the group.

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