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Relief as travellers get weekend reprieve, but more strike chaos lurks

Thousands of passengers have been given a reprieve after air traffic controllers lifted their threat of more strikes.

The move came following an invitation to the controllers and their employer, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), to attend talks at the Labour Court.

Both sides were entering into the negotiations this morning in a bid to end a dispute that grounded some 150 flights for up to four hours at Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports on Wednesday. The dispute broke out when controllers refused to operate a new computer programme and the IAA responded by suspending 14 workers without pay.

The IAA said, despite the industrial relations talks, the 14 employees remained suspended.

Air traffic controllers decided at a meeting of their union in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, to join the negotiations.

IMPACT's assistant general secretary Michael Landers has indicated future work stoppages are likely if more controllers are suspended. "We've taken the initiative to defer any further stoppages. If the IAA were to do anything further along those lines, that might generate a further action from us," he said.

The impasse was ended when employer body IBEC and union umbrella organisation the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) urged the parties to attend talks.

However, relations deteriorated again after the IAA accused Dublin Airport controllers of carrying out a work-to-rule. Aer Arann, Ryanair and Cityjet also claimed the workers had delayed some flights by some minutes, though this was denied by IMPACT.

Mr Landers said IMPACT has "issued no instructions regarding a work-to-rule".

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary called on the "Minister for Transport Noel 'Do Little' Dempsey" to stop avoiding confrontation "with these public sector workers and their trade union". Mr Dempsey said that calls for him to intervene in this strike were "nonsense and a diversion".

comurphy@herald.ie