Irish Courts Rule Siptu Strike Illegal!

SIPTU workers on the ICTU demonstration against austerity through Dublin in February 2013
SIPTU workers on the ICTU demonstration against austerity through Dublin in February 2013

THE Irish courts have ruled that a four-hour strike action at airports due to take place today is illegal.

The SIPTU trade union which was organising the strike action commented yesterday: ‘A Legal injunction has been granted at the High Court in Dublin to the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA).

‘This has resulted in the suspension of a planned four-hour work stoppage by SIPTU members at Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports which was scheduled for tomorrow.’

The injunction covers SIPTU members at Aer Lingus as well as at the three airports. Staff at Aer Lingus and the DAA have been unsuccessfully seeking to get their employers to deal with the significant deficit in the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme (IASS) for several years.

In response to the decision of the High Court, SIPTU Pensions Advisor, Dermot O’Loughlin, said: ‘We will be complying fully with the orders of the High Court. However, this does not resolve the pensions dispute.

‘Accordingly, we will be consulting with our legal advisors with a view to developing a strategy to enable us to exercise our right to withdraw labour and take industrial action in the absence of a fair resolution of the pensions issue within a reasonable time.’

The move has been welcomed by the DAA and Ryanair. Aer Lingus said the cloud of uncertainty created by the strike threat had disrupted thousands of customers.

They said it was yet another occasion where a trade union had cynically caused damage by threatening a strike only to withdraw their strike notice at the last minute.

SIPTU said that any possible peaceful protests have nothing to do with it. The DAA called on SIPTU to engage with an expert panel established last week to seek a resolution to the pension issue.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar also welcomed the ruling by Mr Justice Paul Gilligan. He commented: ‘I have said on a number of occasions that the strike should have been deferred given that the expert panel is currently engaging with all parties involved in the dispute.’

Gilligan ruled that there was a fair question to be tried in relation to the validity of SIPTU’s ballot and whether the union should have restricted the ballot to its members who belonged to the aviation pension scheme.

He also said it was in question whether key personnel, including security staff who had separate agreements, could be involved in industrial action before certain procedures had been exhausted.

Gilligan claimed that SIPTU had not provided replying affidavits to contradict the submissions of the DAA and Ryanair.

He granted the injunction sought by the DAA which yesterday told the court that it would suffer catastrophic and irreparable damage, as well as millions of euros in losses, if the action went ahead. But SIPTU defended its entitlement to take strike action.

Meanwhile, SIPTU President Jack O’Connor said the union will continue its campaign for pay increases in profitable employments across the economy to improve living standards for members, grow the economy and create jobs.

Responding to a front page article entitled ‘Kenny offers tax cut for pay freeze’ in the Irish Sunday Times on March 9th, he insisted that the union is ‘not involved in any talks of any kind with government or otherwise on such a concept’.

‘If the government honoured its commitment to legislate for collective bargaining, exploratory discussions might be possible, but only on the basis that any outcome would benefit the great majority of our members and citizens generally,’ said O’Connor.

‘We are not involved in talks of any kind with government or otherwise on such a concept. Moreover, we are not aware of any such talks involving others in the trade union movement. We are pressing ahead with our strategy to win pay increases in profitable employments across the economy in order to begin the work of recovering ground lost over the crisis years.

‘Apart from securing benefits for the members directly involved, the object is to increase purchasing power thus stimulating domestic demand, to grow the economy and increase employment.’

He also insisted that the union does not agree to any further cutting of public services upon which the great majority of citizens depend in order to facilitate tax cuts.

‘Tax cuts are often deployed in such a way as to disproportionately benefit the better off. However, tax reductions for people on lower and middle incomes, facilitated by an increased contribution from the wealthy and by economic growth, would actually increase the purchasing power of average citizens thus generating jobs and growth.

‘The only equitable way to reduce the tax burden is by concentrating on widening the bands for the Universal Social Charge or otherwise providing for a refundable child tax credit. This would assist everybody but it would be most effective for those who need it most.’

• SIPTU has called on the Dublin City Manager, Owen Keegan, to comply with an Emergency Motion passed by Dublin City Councillors on Monday, March 3rd, seeking the suspension of a Review of Dublin Ambulance Services.

SIPTU Organiser Brendan O’Brien said: ‘We are concerned at public monies being unnecessarily spent on this exercise. The Health Service Executive (HSE) has already committed to examining the issues that would be considered by the Dublin review under its Capacity Review of the State’s Ambulance Services announced on Thursday, 27th February.

‘If the City Manager decides to commence a separate review of the ambulance service in Dublin we believe there is a strong potential for duplication and unnecessary costs, given that the HSE Capacity Review will deal with the same issues.’

He added: ‘Our members are also concerned that motions tabled and supported by elected representatives can be simply dismissed by non-elected council officials. This is an unacceptable situation and it is hoped that the City Manager will reconsider his actions.’

• Income inequality and a two-tier workforce – major problems for female workers

Greater income inequality, higher levels of insecure work and the emergence of a ‘two-tier’ workforce pose a serious problem for female workers, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions 2014 Women’s Conference was told last week.

Addressing some 200 delegates representing women workers north and south, Congress Assistant General Secretary Sally Anne Kinahan said:

‘The crisis – from which we have not fully emerged – saw a concerted attempt to worsen working conditions and create a labour market characterised by badly-paid, insecure work. The only way to combat this is to make Decent Work – good pay and good jobs – a key ambition for post-Troika Ireland.

‘The growth of insecure work affects women most severely, particularly younger women, migrant women, women with lower skills and women with children. Whilst the first wave of the crisis impacted mainly on men – especially in construction – it shifted to sectors strongly populated by female workers, and the emerging two-tier workforce will lead to greater inequality across Irish society

‘As good, decent jobs are supplanted by precarious, part-time work we can see a hollowing out of the labour force which bodes ill for genuine recovery: how can badly-paid work sustain demand and growth in the longer-term?’