Northern Ireland

Aer Lingus Belfast pilots to be balloted over deal

Aer Lingus aircraft
Image caption Aer Lingus pilots in NI are planning to stage industrial action from the end of this week

Aer Lingus pilots at Belfast International Airport are to be balloted on a new deal worked out by unions and the airline's management.

The proposals will be put to members in the next 48 hours in a bid to avert industrial action on Friday.

The dispute arose over rotas and differences in rate of pay between pilots working in Belfast and those in Dublin, Cork and Gatwick.

A union representative said the next step was up to the Belfast pilots.

"In terms of Belfast, we have received an offer that falls somewhat short of our expectations," Michael Landers said.

"We will be putting that offer to our members in Belfast to get their opinion on it.

"We won't be giving them a recommendation on it one way or another. And it will be for the members to decide."

Aer Lingus Director of Human Resources Michael Grealy said the airline had managed to address some of the issues.

"In Belfast we understand the issues there relate to levels of pay," he said.

"And again we've got proposals the unions are taking back to the members this week. Which we've agreed with and we hope they will successfully ratify in the coming days."

Talks aimed at averting widespread disruption have been taking place since Sunday evening at the Labour Relations Commission in Dublin.

Industrial action was due to begin in Dublin on Tuesday with a work-to-rule in Belfast scheduled for 10 June.

'Lowest paid'

In a statement on Monday, Aer Lingus said it intended to operate a full schedule from all its bases from Tuesday onwards.

"Customers who have already changed bookings to another date, may change back to their original planned date of travel if they so wish via," it said.

"Aer Lingus apologises to its customers for the inconvenience caused to them by the recent uncertainty over our scheduled operations."

Details of the settlement reached over the dispute in the Republic of Ireland have not yet been released.

Between 20 and 30 Aer Lingus pilots based in Belfast are members of IMPACT.

While the dispute in the Irish Republic centres on rota arrangements, Mr Landers said the issues in Northern Ireland mainly related to pay.

He said salaries in Belfast were "uncompetitive" and that pilots there were the "lowest paid in all the Aer Lingus bases".

"They are less well paid than Gatwick and considerably lower than the Dublin and Cork bases, so that is obviously an issue that raises concerns among Belfast pilots, they want the company to do something about that," Mr Landers said.

"Our research shows that they are paying less in Belfast than competitor airlines are paying and that has led to a considerable outflow of pilots in Belfast.

"At the moment, they are short of about eight pilots in Belfast which means that pilots from Dublin are operating out of Belfast every single day of the week."

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