Plot Thickens As Aer Lingus Pilots Play Their Ace

Despite the suspension of five pilots at Aer Lingus, the threat of a possible strike has receded.

Management carried out its threat to begin suspending pilots refusing to train new recruits in a dispute over pay and conditions for the airline's planned new hub at Belfast.

However, in a surprise move, members of the Aer Lingus pilots' union Impact have said they will resign en masse from training duties instead, noting that training was optional and lay beyond pilots' core flying duties.

Almost 40 senior pilots have started resigning from training duties to avoid the risk of suspension for refusal to train new recruits for the Northern Ireland operation.

A spokesman told the BBC they would not be goaded into strike action, which he said appeared to be what the company's management wanted.

Instead, the Irish Airline Pilots' Association (Ialpa) which is part of Impact wants to negotiate further over the terms and conditions for Belfast staff, with lower pay and especially the less attractive pension plan topping the agenda.

However, the airline has said negotiations are over and it wants to set up its new hub north of the border employing staff on conditions "with reference to local market conditions".

However, the union realises that the loss of this in-house training capability - which they claim is a regulatory requirement of Irish aviation authorities - would hit the airline hard as it gears up for its new operation, while immunising pilots from disciplinary action.

They are walking a tight-rope though, as many staff are also shareholders following last year's privatisation of what was previously Ireland's national airline.

Their own investments will be damaged if overall financial health is affected by a dispute which could weaken the share price.

At the same time, fearful that staff on lower pay and pensions at a base only 110 miles just up the road from Dublin could eventually reduce their own conditions, pilots are also anxious to retain their own conditions, which are considerably better than those enjoyed by staff in rival Ryanair - which is ironically also a major shareholder in the newly privatised airline.

Aer Lingus management is therefore confident in confronting the pilots and also telling other staff it will not honour a pay award supposed to be paid as part of an Irish government-brokered national pay deal, unless staff accept the airline's cost reduction proposals.

With the new Belfast hub due to open in early December, the latest surprise move by pilots places more pressure on management to resolve the increasingly bitter dispute, and meet its deadline for take-off from Belfast, which is already being widely promoted in the Province.


Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

01 December 2021
Health And Social Care Workers To Receive 3% Pay Increase
All Agenda for Change staff working in Health and Social Care are to receive a 3% pay increase, Health Minister Robin Swann has confirmed. The pay rise will be backdated to 01 April 2021. Mr Swann said: "I want to once again place on record my gratitude and admiration to all who work in our health and social care system.
29 November 2021
Foyle Port Workers Take Strike Action In Pay Dispute
Some staff at L'Derry's Foyle Port have begun strike action is a dispute over a rejected demand for a 2.1% pay rise this year, following a pay freeze. Unite, the trade union representing the striking workers has warned that the action could "significantly affect port operations".
14 June 2012
City Airport Hits Back At 'Ludicrous' Claims
A spokeswoman for George Best Belfast City Airport has hit back at claims that it is not sensible for the capital to have two airports 14 miles away.
13 January 2022
Education Minister Urged To Introduce New School Starting Age Legislation
The Education Minister has been urged to introduce new legislation on school starting age, following a consultation that showed 90% of respondents supported the move. A consultation was held on proposal to allow parents to defer their children starting school.
12 January 2022
150 New Jobs To Be Created With Construction Of New Ballymena College
More than 150 new construction jobs are to be created during the construction of the new £45 million campus for Northern Regional College in Ballymena. Draperstown-based Heron Bros have been appointed to the scheme at Farm Lodge.