Trainee cabin crew jettisoned in Aer Lingus dispute

Up to 30 trainee cabin crew were yesterday told by Aer Lingus their training was being stopped and to hand back their uniforms because the airline has had to use a contractor to crew its transatlantic services.

The news came as cabin crew union Impact last night began a ballot for industrial action which could see strikes at the airline from the middle of next month. That action is not only over the dispute in relation to transatlantic flights, but also numerous other issues, including rostering and alleged breaches of agreements.

Aer Lingus is to significantly increase the frequency of its service to the US from January using Boeing 757s instead of the larger Airbus 330s, which it currently operates. The airline had initially planned to wet lease planes plus pilots from leasing company ACL but use its own cabin crew, mainly drawn from its Shannon compliment of 90.

However, last week it emerged Aer Lingus and Impact were at odds over the number of staff who should be put on each of the flights — Aer Lingus wanted four, Impact said at least five were required. As a result, Aer Lingus told the union it was instead going to use ACL cabin crew, putting the roles of the Shannon staff in jeopardy.

It also confirmed yesterday the use of ACL crew meant the new trainees were surplus to requirements and had been told to return uniforms given to them at the end of last week.

“Last Thursday, Aer Lingus was informed by Impact that they will not agree to crewing the Boeing 757 operations,” an airline spokesman said. “We were obliged to instruct ACL that they should start recruiting to crew the aircraft. As a direct result, Aer Lingus, rather than growing its cabin crew employee numbers, will now have a surplus of cabin crew. We have therefore had to notify a group of 30 recently hired cabin crew trainees that their training has been cancelled with immediate effect, as the roles for which they were training will no longer exist in Aer Lingus. We deeply regret having to take this action. It was our express desire that the aircraft would be crewed by our excellent Shannon-based crew and we are extremely disappointed that this will now not be the case.”

Impact said the move was “unnecessary and unfair”.

“Aer Lingus management has claimed that this is because Impact cabin crew members are refusing to crew the 757 transatlantic service from January 2014,” a spokesman said. “However, we have not refused to operate the 757 service and we remain available for discussions with management on the correct and appropriate crewing complement.”

The union said the new flight schedule is not due to start for three months and there was adequate time to resolve the dispute.

“Aer Lingus management has refused to enter discussions with Impact, and have insisted on a crew complement of four despite there being an industry standard of five to six cabin crew on 757 transatlantic passenger aircraft,” the union said.

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