Aer Lingus set for stormy weather as craft unions vote for strike action

AER Lingus unions representing employees such as electricians and machinists have voted to strike should the airline unilaterally change work conditions, adding to the number of groups threatening to walk off their jobs.

Members voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action, the Dublin-based craft unions said yesterday in a statement.

Members of SIPTU, Aer Lingus’s largest union, have also voted to take action against their employer.

The airline, Ireland’s second-biggest after Ryanair, wants employees by March 1 to accept cost cuts, including changes to working hours, holidays and overtime.

The airline began issuing new contracts in January and said in a letter to SIPTU last month that it is facing “commercial challenges and threats that are unprecedented in the history of the company”.

The craft unions said their action looks almost certain to include the withdrawal of labour. SIPTU, representing cabin crew members and administrative employees at Aer Lingus, hasn’t said what form of protest it will take.

Shares of Aer Lingus rose 3 cents, or 1.1%, to €2.78 in Dublin, giving the airline a market value of €1.47 billion.

The airline also plans to open its first base outside its home market within a year to serve new routes.

The airline is reviewing four potential sites in Britain and continental Europe, said Enda Corneille, commercial director, in a statement.

“The idea of a new base is welcome and necessary,’ said Stuart Draper, head of research at Dolmen Securities in Dublin.

“It’s more likely to be in Europe or the UK. They are planning more short-haul routes so there is a rationale to this.”

Ryanair, which tried to buy Aer Lingus last year, said last week it will open its 19th base at Weeze airport, 78km north-west of Dusseldorf.

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