Irish Aviation Authority Suspends Striking Air Traffic Controllers





Irish Aviation Authority Suspends Striking Air Traffic Controllers

By Mike Mitchell

January 19, 2010 - The Irish Aviation Authority, (IAA) today suspended Air Traffic Control Officers (ATCOs) who refuse to carry out normal assigned duties until their demands have been met. Since 1st January the ATCOs union, IMPACT has instructed controllers not to co-operate with a number of new technology projects unless the Authority commits to payment for these changes.   

The Irish Aviation Authority believes ATCO union’s agenda is to forcing the immediate payment of a 6% pay increase agreed as part of the last partnership agreement - Towards 2016; and avoiding the payment of a contribution towards their pensions in line with all other public sector staff. ATCOs pay no pension contribution and the Authority pays a contribution of 30.5% of salary.

Flights at all airports are likely to be disrupted by this dispute. The IAA apologies to all members of the travelling public and to the airlines for the disruption that this action by ATCOs will cause. Passengers are advised to contact their airline before setting out.

Pay Increase: The first issue, an increase of 6%:  An increase of 6% to would cost the IAA an additional € 6 million each year. This cost would have to be passed to the airlines who fund the IAA - the Authority receives no State funding. The airlines cannot afford to pay. 

"The aviation industry is on its knees at the moment," says Liam Kavanagh, Director of Human Resources, IAA.  "The ailing airlines, including Aer Lingus, Cityjet, Aer Arann - cannot afford to take on additional costs.  Meeting the 6% pay demand to 300 Air Traffic Controllers would cost an additional € 6 million per year.  This would have to be passed on in its entirety to the airlines since we in the IAA receive no funding from Government." 

The ATCOs play a vital role in the safety of air transport and are currently highly paid, according to the IAA. No pay cuts are proposed.  No job losses are envisaged in 2010.  

"ATCOs are significantly well paid compared to other public sector workers such as teachers, guards and nurses, all of whom also do essential work," says Liam Kavanagh.  "The salary for an ATCO is approximately €115K.  If you factor in the pension contribution and the PRSI contribution that the IAA makes for each person, their total package comes to almost €160K.  They do vital work and they are very well paid for that work.   This is the wrong time to be looking for a pay increase of 6%.  We have told the ATCOs we will be happy to review this in 2012." 


Pension Contribution: The second issue, pension contribution: The IAA provides a defined benefits scheme for ATCOs. "A defined benefits scheme is a Rolls Royce pension, and not many people are lucky enough to have such a pension," says Liam Kavanagh.  "ATCOs make no contribution to their pension.  

The Authority, meanwhile, makes a contribution of 30.5% of salary for each person.  We are asking them to make a contribution, in line with all of their colleagues in the public sector who now pay a pension levy. They do not want to make a contribution to their own pensions. The IAA is asking ATCOs to make this contribution in line with all other public sector staff, and because the pension fund is in deficit to a total of €234 million. 

"We need to constantly review and update our systems," says Liam Kavanagh. "And we cannot afford to make a payment to people every time we upgrade a system.  We are not talking revolutionary change, sometimes the change can be the equivalent of upgrading from Microsoft XP to Microsoft Vista. That level of ongoing change is vital to ensure that we are being effective."

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