SHANNON Airport, as well as Dublin and Cork airports, narrowly avoided closing last week after the courts granted an injunction preventing industrial action by SIPTU members.
In the aftermath of that decision, Aer Lingus has announced it will be taking legal action against the trade union and its organiser, Dermot O’Loughlin, alleging that it lost millions due to the threat of strike.
A statement from the airline said, “SIPTU’s decision on March 12 to stand down its work stoppage planned for March 14 was too little too late. The damage had already been done. The decision came less than 36 hours before the stoppage was due to commence. The cloud of uncertainty created by the strike has damaged Aer Lingus business and disrupted thousands of our customers.
“The changes made to our flight schedule, to circumvent the planned strike, could not be undone at such short notice. Any further changes to the revised schedule would only have caused further inconvenience and confusion to our customers.
“Significant damage had been inflicted on our forward-booking profile and the costs of hiring in additional aircraft to re-accommodate customers had already been incurred and could not be avoided.
“This is yet another occasion where the trade union has cynically caused damage, threatening a strike, only to withdraw their strike notice at the last minute,” the statement said.
“We have consistently indicated to SIPTU that it was our intention to hold it liable for damages caused to our company. Therefore, we have now issued proceedings against the trade union, in the High Court, seeking recovery of the losses inflicted upon Aer Lingus.”
In the summons documentation, the airline claims that SIPTU did not comply with Section 14 of the Industrial Relations Act of 1990. This section related to how ballots on industrial action are conducted.
It also claims that “notification of the proposed industrial action was wrongful and unlawful”, while it is also claiming that a 2010 agreement was breached and that no valid trade dispute existed.
After receiving a plenary summons, SIPTU said it would fight the Aer Lingus claim.
“We will be consulting with our legal advisers over the next number of days and we will be vigorously resisting this action in the courts,” SIPTU said.
Speaking to The Clare Champion earlier this month, SIPTU organiser, Dermot O’Loughlin, said there was huge determination among the workers at Shannon to resist cuts to their pensions.
While there is a deficit of around Ђ780 million in the Irish Aviation Superannuation Scheme, he said that a combined injection of around Ђ240 million from Aer Lingus and the Dublin Airport Authority would probably be enough to resolve the matter.