Airline cabin crew ‘will not accept work practice efficiencies’

Cabin crew at Aer Lingus have joined with their ground colleagues in publicly declaring they will not accept work practice efficiencies in exchange for a company investment in the ailing pension scheme.

The company and unions are to once more enter talks in an effort to find a way of addressing the €750m deficit in the Irish airline’s superannuation scheme.

Siptu, which represents ground crew and a small number of cabin crew, had threatened to boycott the talks and proceed with disruptive industrial action over the requirement by management for “productivity measures” before it would invest up to €100m in the scheme.

In the end, the union agreed to go into the talks on the basis that there would be no preconditions although airline sources have indicated the staff efficiencies remain integral to its investment.

Impact trade union, which represents cabin crew at the airline, has revealed details of a circular issued to its members explaining a decision to go into the talks.

The union said it wanted to clarify, that throughout discussions to date, it had rejected efforts by the airline “to link resolution of the pensions issue to cost containment and pay issues beyond the current cost savings programme (Greenfield)”. It will maintain that position.

The union’s national secretary, Matt Staunton, said the union was aware of a need to get a resolution as soon as possible.

“Foremost in our minds is the need to have an agreed solution in place prior to the regulator (the Pensions Board) forcing the trustees to act on the deficit early in the new year,” he said. “The pension scheme and the proposed rescue plan is of such a complex nature that no time can be wasted.”

The airline appears determined not to set aside any more than €100m to bolster the pension scheme. It has indicated that money will only be made available with strict provisos including up to €54m in savings in return to be achieved through staff cost rationalisation.

Management has advised, as it stands, existing workers will only receive 4% of their pension because retired members of the scheme, by law, must be covered first.

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