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.

08 February 2019
PSNI Officers To See 2% Pay Rise
A two percent consolidated pay increase has been awarded to the federated and superintending ranks of the PSNI, and has been backdated to 01 September 2018.
30 January 2019
Other News In Brief
Sinn Fein Call For Public Inquiry Into Muckamore Abbey Sinn Fein has demanded the publication of the Serious Adverse Incident (SAI) report from the Muckamore Abbey care facility and called for a public inquiry into the hospital's practices. Pat Sheehan's calls follow reports that a seclusion room at the facility was used over 740 times in 2015.
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.
16 October 2018
Lisburn Engineering Firm To Create Almost 300 Jobs
An engineering firm in Lisburn is to create almost 300 new jobs as part of £28million expansion plans. Camlin confirmed it will create 298 posts and has enhanced its headquarters in the area. Camlin develops and supplies engineering solutions, primarily for the electricity and rail industries.
16 October 2007
Aer Lingus Pilots Ready For Belfast Take-Off
Aer Lingus pilots have voted to accept an agreement that will allow the company to operate its new Belfast hub. The deal was finally agreed between the Irish Airline Pilots' Association and the airline's management at the Labour Relations Commission on Monday, leaving Aer Lingus ready for take-off from Belfast after all.