Aer Lingus

This summer has seen its fair share of strike actions and now it looks like there could be another.

This time it is the staff at Aer Lingus and the Dublin Airport Authority (DDA) who have voted to strike if need be to in order to protect their pensions.

The employees have been paying into the Irish Aviation Superannuation Scheme (IASS) pension pot. However, they are concerned that their savings will be lost if their employers do not plug the scheme's €700m funding black hole. The firm do not agree that it is their responsibility to cover the shortfall, a large majority of which is due to employees and former employees.

The employees have a number of actions that they are planning on taking should discussions not go their way. Protests could include an overtime ban, working to rule, non-co-operation, limited work stoppages or withdrawal of labour. As with so many pension plans of late the deficit is too large for the employer to take on themselves. Whilst they have agreed to pay the current rate required for an employer contribution, they have refused to make any increase on this amount. The two sides desperately need to organise some talks in order to settle the dispute. The unions, however, are concerned that the employers will not participate and force the pension trustees to wind up the trust as a result. This of course would be a huge detriment to savers who have been paying into the scheme for a number of years.

Irish Congress of Trade Unions' industrial officer Liam Berney said "the result of the ballot should send a clear message to both companies [Aer Lingus and DAA] that staff are determined to secure their pension entitlements and are prepared to act to ensure this is the case. It is now up to both companies to come forward with proposals that meet the expectations of members of the IASS." He added that the unions were all for some meaningful discussions that could save the trust. There needs to be some compromise with the employers putting forward a realistic proposal.

In response to the ballot, Aer Lingus commented in their half yearly results for 2012 "we note the recently concluded union ballot to seek a mandate for industrial action in the event that the funding shortfall in the IASS is not addressed. Notwithstanding this ballot, the [airline] group believes that the process being conducted under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission continues to represent the best opportunity for the resolution of issues arising from the shortfall in the IASS."

Unfortunately for Aer Lingus this is not the only trouble they are currently facing. They are also in the middle of trying to defend a potential take-over by Ryanair. If such a take-over was to take place it could cause further disruption to the company. The company also said that the legal costs in bringing its defence against the take-over bid to the European competition authorities has cost them millions.

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