UK Markets open in 4 hrs 18 mins

Dublin High Court approves Ryanair bid to prevent Irish pilot strike

By Aoife Moore, PA

The Dublin High Court has approved an application by Ryanair to stop a proposed pilot strike in Ireland on Thursday and Friday.

Justice McDonald told Dublin High Court that he would approve an application for an injunction to prevent around 180 pilots undertaking a 48-hour strike action over pay conditions beginning at 12.01am on Thursday.

He said he was restraining the pilots’ union Forsa “from directly or indirectly, organising, directing or endorsing their members to participate in a strike on August 22 or 23, 2019”.

Justice McDonald made a lengthy ruling on Wednesday morning in which he noted he would have liked to have more time, but due to the imminent nature of the strikes, he felt slightly rushed.

He said that Forsa had not satisfactorily proved through its evidence that all members of the union had been made aware of ballot action and been able to vote, which was underlined by the fact that only around 61% of eligible members took part.

He labelled the issue “a gap in evidence”, although the court proceedings were in an incredibly tight time frame, he could not dispense with statutory requirements.

He approved Ryanair’s application in the interim, to prevent Thursday and Friday’s strikes, but said he would take further submissions from both parties for any future action.

The court action taken by the airline against Forsa and a number of named pilots started on Monday morning.

The legal arguments surrounded whether an agreement signed in the summer of 2018 through mediation at the Workplace Relations Commission was an “over-arching agreement” that covered pay conditions as well as seniority and annual leave.

Ryanair argued that the 2018 agreement covered issues surrounding salary. However, Forsa said that the previous agreement only covered the issues that arose at that particular time.

The injunction prevents a 48-hour stoppage from members of the Forsa union (Niall Carson/PA)

Martin Hayden SC, appearing for the airline, told the court he found it “extraordinary” that the union claimed the 2018 agreement did not cover pay, and the union had shown “complete indifference” to resolving the dispute.

Forsa told the court that Ryanair has been “curt and dismissive” of a 30-page proposal it submitted to the company on pay, and that the company had no basis to apply for the injunction.

Ryanair welcomed Justice McDonald’s ruling in a statement posted on its social media.

The airline said the banning of the strike by “a small minority of pilots” would “comes as a huge relief to thousands of passengers and their families during the last week of the school holidays”, before making a final note that the pilots who make “six-figure salaries” should not be halting the travel plans of families, “very few of whom earn over 172,000 euro pa”.

Speaking after the judgement, Forsa spokesman Bernard Harbor said that the union would reflect after it had received the entire written judgement, and refused to be drawn on whether it could return to mediation with Ryanair.

Meanwhile, the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) said on Monday that because Ryanair has “wasted time with unnecessary court action”, their chance to resolve the dispute involving their pilots has been lost.

Ryanair began seeking an injunction at the High Court in London on Wednesday to stop strike action by its UK pilots.

Barrister Paul Gott QC, who is leading Ryanair’s legal team in London, told the judge in a written case outline that strike action could be “enormously disruptive”.

He said Ryanair would suffer “significant reputational” damage and said Balpa had not conducted a ballot which complied with the requirements of labour relations legislation.

Barrister Andrew Burns QC, who is leading Balpa’s legal team, said, in a written case outline, that Ryanair’s application should be dismissed.

Mrs Justice Lambert,  who is hearing the application against Balpa, is expected to give her decision later this afternoon.