Air traffic controllers' strike will damage economy, warns Minister

Next week’s threatened strike by air traffic controllers will damage the economy and the country’s international reputation, Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey warned tonight.

Up to 900 airline flights will be grounded if the controllers go ahead with a planned 24-hour stoppage on Thursday.

Mr Dempsey also told the Dáil that the Government may have to enforce no-strike clauses for essential services if industrial action causes disruption on a national level.

“I believe very, very strongly that putting consumers through the kind of mental torment for the next week is not necessary and it shouldn’t happen.

“I believe the possible damage to the economy and to the reputation of this country is way out of proportion to the issues that need to be resolved.”

Tens of thousands of passengers will be affected by the dispute, which is set to cripple all services to, from, and over Ireland’s airspace.

Impact claims the row is over staff shortages but the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has insisted it relates to rosters and overtime.

Both sides will meet for crunch talks at the Labour Court on Monday.

In the Dáil, Fine Gael frontbench TD Fergus O’Dowd said planned strike action will also cost other transatlantic airlines who won’t be able to fly through Irish airspace.

He also called for a “no-strike” clause to be in place for essential service providers like air traffic controllers.

Mr Dempsey said the social partnership regime between the government and unions did not necessitate a no-strike clause.

But he added: “Quite clearly if people don’t abide by the regulations and don’t make full use of the industrial relations channels of the state and if staff threaten walk-outs, then I think it is time for the government to review the no-strike situation.”

Earlier, Mr Dempsey agreed controllers had a stressful job because they were responsible for the lives of thousands of people.

“You have a lot of lives in your hands at any one time,” he added.

On the planned strike, he continued: “This will have a huge impact on air services to and from Ireland.

“If it happens, it will do a huge amount of damage but the uncertainty for a week in advance will also cause huge anxiety for travellers.”


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