THE prospect of a strike at Shannon Airport has moved closer, as a ballot on industrial action showed a massive majority of SIPTU members favouring it, due to a long-running dispute over pensions.
Workers at Dublin and Cork airports, as well as Aer Lingus, have also voted for industrial action but SIPTU pension policy adviser, Dermot O’Loughlin, said the ballot of Shannon Aviation Authority members was particularly one-sided.
On Tuesday he said, “There were record turnouts and results in Cork and Dublin but they were trumped beyond belief in Shannon. Ninety-eight per cent have voted for taking industrial action and 96% said their preference was for strike action.”
He said there had been a 90% turnout and that both that figure and the resounding vote in favour of strike action were “amazing”.
Workers at the three State airports and at Aer Lingus are all covered by the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme, which has a deficit of a reported €780 million.
There has been a dispute over the hole in the pension fund for three years now but, thusfar, industrial action has been avoided.
Mr O’Loughlin said SIPTU members at Shannon are “angry, disillusioned and frustrated” that a solution still hasn’t been found. He added that he hadn’t appreciated until recently how strong the feeling actually is.
He said current proposals would see his members lose out hugely.
“It is speculated that the deficit in the scheme is in the region of €800 million. What they’re saying is that active members in particular and also deferred members (those who have made contributions in the past but are no longer contributing to the fund and are not receiving payments) are going to have a very significant haircut to their pension benefit. For someone in their late 30s or 40s, they’re not offering revaluation and that’s massive. If you don’t have it, the value of your pension decreases. They’re basically saying that whatever benefits you’re given today, won’t be adjusted for inflation or wage increases.”
He estimated that a 40-year-old paying into the fund now could see an 80% reduction in the benefits available on their retirement, assuming an annual rate of inflation of 2%.
Aer Lingus also has employees based at Shannon. Mr O’Loughlin said the airline’s employees are also strongly in favour of strike action. “It wasn’t quite as strong as the Shannon Airport one but, in terms of industrial action, it was 91% and 80% in favour of strike.”
In a statement, Aer Lingus criticised the result of the ballot and called on the trustee of the scheme to come up with an acceptable proposal quickly.
“The renewed prospect of industrial action is unhelpful to making progress towards reaching a solution, which is in the interests of all parties. It remains the responsibility of the IASS Trustee to submit an appropriate funding proposal to the Irish Pensions Board. This is the next crucial step in this process.
“We continue to urge the IASS Trustee to submit its proposal urgently and, similarly, urge the Irish Pensions Board to prioritise and expedite its issuance of a response to the proposal.
“We wish to inform all Aer Lingus customers that we have not received notice of industrial action and, as such, our schedule is planned to operate as normal.”