Belfast Telegraph

Ryanair passengers face limbo during court action against pilot strike

The row centres on a pay dispute involving some 180 pilots in Ireland.

The action is proposed to begin at 12.01am on Thursday and last for 48 hours (Niall Carson/PA)
The action is proposed to begin at 12.01am on Thursday and last for 48 hours (Niall Carson/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

Ryanair passengers face another day of waiting for travel confirmation as court action against a potential pilot strike continues.

High Court action, taken by the airline against pilots’ union Forsa and a number of named pilots to prevent a strike later this week, continued on Tuesday, with Ryanair’s senior counsel Martin Hayden continuing his argument, which started on Monday morning.

The row between the parties centres around an ongoing issue surrounding pay for some 180 pilots in Ireland, who balloted for strike action earlier this month. The action is proposed to begin at 12.01am on Thursday and last for 48 hours.

Mr Hayden told the court in Dublin he finds it “extraordinary” that the union is claiming a 2018 Workplace Relations Commission agreement signed by both parties does not cover pay, and the union has shown “complete indifference” to resolving the dispute which will affect “hundreds of customers”.

“If the court looks at agreement, this is why I find my friend’s affidavit extraordinary, that claims this this agreement does not cover pay,” Mr Hayden said.

“Through a mediation process, at the instruction of the union, they signed up to an agreement, with a mechanism for the use of the services of Mr Mulvey (mediator), who gives directions and ultimately during the process has three meetings on pay, and yet this affidavit says it has nothing to do with pay. If that is the case, what was Mr Mulvey doing?

“There are passengers at this moment not knowing whether they’re going or if they’re coming back.”

Mr Hayden’s submission went on to early afternoon on Tuesday before Mr Justice McDonald – who informed Mr Hayden on a number of occasions that time was of the essence in this case – stopped him mid-sentence repeatedly in an effort to move him on.

“Can we please move on?” Justice McDonald said.

“It’s 25 minutes past 12 and you’re looking for a decision before midnight on Thursday – please keep that in mind.”

Forsa says Ryanair has been “curt and dismissive” of a 30-page proposal it submitted to the company on pay and conditions, and at one point stated that the submission had “no basis in reality”.

Its affidavit stated that Ryanair has no basis to apply for an injunction to stop strike action, as the previous agreement signed by both parties in summer 2018 is “not a full collective agreement”.

Marguerite Bolger, appearing for Forsa, said: “They are entitled to industrial actions for whatever they want as long as it is within the parameters of the 1990 Act, and any view Ryanair has about how negotiations were conducted are neither here nor there.

“I have no doubt this strike will cause huge disruption to passengers but to say their European right to freedom of movement will be affected by industrial action is a very ambitious argument.”

An issue arose in the afternoon after it emerged that Forsa, despite providing two affidavits, had not provided evidence to prove that the ballot for strike action was communicated to union members in a time as soon as practical, in accordance with the law.

“I’m concerned that if I am to exclude the opportunity to provide that evidence, I would be doing a great injustice to the union, on the other hand, I have the real problem that this hearing has to end at 4.30pm today and I need to collect my thoughts,” Justice McDonald told the court.

Ms Bolger retrieved a third affidavit which was submitted to the court under strict time limits, which she said proves the ballot was lawful and steps were taken that every member entitled to vote could do so.

Justice McDonald concluded the hearing on Tuesday, and said he expects to reach a decision on Wednesday at around 10.30am.

PA

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