Strike Snarls Dublin Airport

D U B L I N, Oct. 27, 2000 -- Strike action against Ireland’s national airline, Aer Lingus, snarled Dublin Airport and forced thousands of frustrated passengers to miss their flights Friday for the second time this month.

Some 1,400 members of the airline’s clerical staff stopped work for four hours, forcing Aer Lingus to cancel about 35 of 160 daily flights from Dublin Airport. Many of the rest were delayed for several hours. Aer Lingus estimated that 4,000 would-be passengers were prevented from flying while another 10,000 faced long waits.

The industrial unrest looked likely to continue sporadically, with the clerical staff planning a 24-hour strike next Friday as well. Ireland’s labor court called for both sides to attend a joint mediation session to prevent that next protest, an offer immediately accepted by Aer Lingus directors but sidestepped by the clerks’ union.

Last week the cabin crews staged their own 24-hour strike, forcing Aer Lingus to cancel all flights that day. The airline’s caterers and baggage handlers have also threatened to mount their own stoppages.

All the unionized workers complain about a salary structure that starts at 5.50 pounds (dlrs 6) per hour, a wage that doesn’t allow them to live comfortably amid Ireland’s booming economy. The expansion has drastically forced up the cost of accommodation and driving in the Irish capital.

The planned series of strikes is upsetting Irish government plans to privatize the airline next year.