Pilots Dispute: There Is Only One Side To Blame

Pilots at Aer Lingus are being subject to a high level of media abuse. RTÉ gave a platform to Willie Walshe, the former CEO of Aer Lingus and British Airways, to argue that their claim was impossible.

Government Ministers repeat a slightly different line. ‘Both sides’, they suggest, should come to their senses and put the interests of holidaymakers first.

But ‘both sides’ are not equally to blame. The reality is that the pilots are facing a hardline union-busting management. Their demand is perfectly reasonable. They want a cumulative 4% pay rise for the years when their wages fell below inflation. It amounts to a claim for a 24% increase.

And, here is the rub, Aer Lingus do not want to give a pay rise until pilots grant them extra productivity. In other words, they want the pilots to pay for their own pay rise.

But the pay rise Aer Lingus pilots want has already been granted to British airway pilots. These got a 24% increase in 2019.

The hypocrisy of this management is staggering.

Last year Aer Lingus profits soared by 400%, hitting €225 million. Total executive pay to all Aer Lingus executive management, directors and non-executive directors rose to €6.2m from €3m.

So here we have top management awarding themselves obscene salaries – but then telling pilots that they must not look for pay rises that match inflation.

Behind this dispute lies a deeper issue.

The pay of Irish workers has fallen behind the rise in the cost of living. If the pilots in Aer Lingus win it makes it easier for the rest of us to follow through and demand the same inflation-proofed pay rises.