Warning over shortfall in Aer Lingus pension scheme

The plan to privatise Aer Lingus cannot go ahead unless the €250m pension scheme shortfall is addressed, it was claimed tonight.

SIPTU, which represents more than half of the airline’s workers is holding an emergency meeting of its shop stewards on Thursday to discuss the issue.

“We’ll be making decisions at that about how to protect ourselves. Obviously we’re not going to have a situation where we’ll be rolled over,” said national industrial secretary Michael Halpenny.

Two years ago, a planned strike by Aer Lingus staff over job cuts was narrowly averted.

There is a shortfall of up to €250m in the index-linked pension fund for the 3,600 existing Aer Lingus employees and the 8,000 retired employees.

Mr Halpenny said a study on the pension crisis was still ongoing, even though a Government decision on the privatisation of Aer Lingus was imminent.

“If any of our members were to ask us if the pension is sorted out, we have to say no,” he said.

The pensions fund, which is built on contributions from Aer Lingus employees and the airline, is run with the Dublin Airport Authority and SR Technique, the company formerly known as Team Aer Lingus.

Mr Halpenny said that the union had not been given a copy of the airline’s strategic business plan.

The Government has already approved a plan for a part-flotation of Aer Lingus on the stock market, so that the airline can raise more capital.

SIPTU is opposed to the move in principle, although a poll by unions of Aer Lingus staff found that more than two thirds would support the sale of the airline as long as they get a 15% stake in the company and the pension deficit is addressed.

The meeting of SIPTU shop stewards from Cork, Dublin and Shannon airports is due to take place in Dublin at 10am on Thursday.

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