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John
29th September 2003, 11:05
The Irish Times

Ireland Mon, Sep 29, 2003

Link (http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/ireland/2003/0929/540742630HM2AIRCORPS.html)

Plans for full rescue service in north-west may be stalled
Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent

Plans by the Air Corps to provide 24-hour search-and-rescue cover in the north-west may be stalled by a dispute over pay for winch crews.

A pay offer by the Department of Defence has been described as "totally unacceptable" by search-and-rescue staff, who are now assigned to the Sikorsky S-61 medium-lift helicopter based at Sligo airport.

PDFORRA, the winch crews' union, said it has decided to withdraw the pay claim from the Department of Defence's conciliation and arbitration mechanism, due to "the manner in which the Department has dealt with it and the timing of its response".

Currently, the new north-west Sikorsky medium-lift helicopter is on daytime service at Sligo and is due to be upgraded to 24-hour duty from next month. The Sikorsky is being leased for the Air Corps at a cost of €16 million over three years, following the Minister for Defence's cancellation of the controversial contract to buy new helicopters for the Defence Forces.

Three of the State's four air/sea rescue bases are run by a private company, CHC Helicopters, for the Irish Coast Guard and the Air Corps is now only responsible for the north-west. Its search-and-rescue staff transferred from Finner camp to Sligo earlier in the summer to accommodate the Sikorsky.

PDFORRA said that Air Corps staff are serving alongside more highly paid search-and-rescue crews working for CHC. It cited a specialist report drawn up by Air Corps management last year, which compared the pay of RAF, Garda Air Support Unit, CHC Helicopters and Air Corps staff.

The report found that the salary for winch operators in CHC/ Irish Coast Guard was €48,000 to €58,000 annually, compared to a maximum salary of €37,000 for the Air Corps. It also noted that RAF crews received substantially higher rates of flying pay than Air Corps crews, at up to four times the daily rate in some cases.

Winch crews perform the most dangerous job in many rescue missions and PDFORRA recently highlighted safety issues in relation to Air Corps equipment. The union said this is one of the reasons for a 78 per cent turnover in winch crew personnel in the Air Corps within the last five years.

The union said the Department of Defence response to the pay claim was "deliberately delayed" to coincide with the upgrading to 24-hour cover at the north-west rescue base.

FMolloy
29th September 2003, 11:28
They make it sound like the AC are going on strike.

yellowjacket
29th September 2003, 11:38
PDFORRA are a union?

Is this deliberate spin or lazy reporting?

Not dengrating the crews a bit here, and they are surely entitled to fair pay for their job, but military organisations are not renowned for negotiations when it comes to following orders..