A trade union today said it expects Aer Lingus to suspend more of its pilots today as part of an ongoing row over pay and conditions at the airline's planned new Belfast base.
Four pilots were removed from the payroll yesterday after refusing to cooperate with the recruitment and training of staff for the Dublin-based airline's new base at Aldergrove.
Pilots are at loggerheads with management because they believe the terms and conditions on offer for pilots operating out of Belfast are inferior to the existing terms in the Republic.
The Impact union has advised pilots to resign from their training duties, which it says are optional.
But Aer Lingus says it will not accept partial resignations.
Impact is seeking legal advice on the matter, while the Republic's Labour Relations Commission is believed to be planning to contact both sides in an effort to prevent a deterioration in the situation.
The four pilots suspended yesterday were told not to come back to work until they had agreed to mentor air crew for the Belfast base, which is due to be operational in December.
About 30 other pilots, who had an optional agreement to train new recruits, have been told by Impact to resign from that role but continue day-to-day flying duties. They could also face suspension.
Although passengers at Dublin Airport were spared any disruption yesterday, the pilots are now believed to be considering the October bank holiday weekend in the Republic to take action.
Michael Landers of Impact insisted that if pilots do take industrial action it will be at a time of their choosing and not at a time that suits Aer Lingus.
He declined to say when a time of the pilots choosing might be, but sources suggested that the pilots are considering action over the October bank holiday weekend.
It was a tense day at Dublin Airport yesterday, with the first pilot suspended in mid-afternoon after he refused a direct order to help train Belfast pilots.
Pilots met their trade union Ialpa and umbrella group Impact at 3pm, and the meeting was widely expected to result in a renewed and immediate threat of strike action, particularly after three more pilots were suspended.
The union officials instead left the meeting confirming that the 30 or so pilots who had gathered would write to Aer Lingus today and resign their training duties, but not their jobs, in a move that will cost most of the pilots between €10,000 and €15,000 in annual payments.