By Andrew Bushe and Harry Keaney
DUBLIN A 24-hour work stoppage by Aer Lingus clerical staff, which would have halted all flights this Friday, has been averted, at least for now, after airline management and staff agreed Tuesday morning to a Labor Court offer of talks. A 24-hour stoppage was also planned by about 450 catering staff for this Thursday, which would have eliminated hot meals on flights.
The Labor Court offer, following a four-hour stoppage by 1,400 clerical staff last Friday, had been contingent on strike action being suspended.
The Aer Lingus spokesman in New York, Brian Murphy, expressed his delight that the strike action had been averted. "We are extremely pleased about this, particularly given the impact it has had on our customers," he said.
Claims for better pay and conditions and interunion disputes have left the airline facing five different industrial disputes.
Before the strike planned for this Friday had been averted, there had been fears that Irish runners participating in this Sunday’s New York City marathon may have been stranded in Ireland. Many of the runners from Ireland are racing for charity. They include about 20 for GOAL as well as 26 runners participating in the marathon for Croí, the west of Ireland Cardiology Foundation.
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Last Friday’s four-hour stoppage — at the start of the Halloween bank holiday weekend — led to the cancellation of 35 out of 260 flights, the loss of 4,000 bookings and 17,000 passengers being delayed.
Some domestic flights and a number routed to Britain, France, Sweden, Holland and Belgium were cancelled.
An airline spokesman said he was not aware of any immediate further action planned by cabin crew, baggage handlers or pilots who are also seeking better pay and conditions.
On Oct. 17, the airline’s fleet was grounded for the day for the first time in 20 years as a result of a job action by cabin crew.
Two emergencies also hit the airline last weekend.
Air accident expert are investigating why a 50 seater Fokker 50 plane slid off the runway in Cork as it landed on Sunday after a flight from Dublin. No one required medical attention but the runway was blocked for several hours.
A flight from New York with 300 on board landed safely on Monday after emergency services had been alerted that a nose-wheel may have deflated. An Aer Lingus spokesman said there had been an instrument error.