Aer Lingus unions’ stance unchanged by IAG

Unions at Aer Lingus say a meeting with the head of International Airlines Group, the company seeking to take over the airline, told them nothing new that would convince them to reverse their opposition to the proposed acquisition.

Following a 90-minute meeting with the unions representing the airline’s cabin and ground crew, IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said he had reaffirmed “quite strongly, I would hope” the best guarantee of job security for workers at Aer Lingus was to be in a growth business.

“We are not bidding for a company to do anything other than to grow it,” he said. “We see an opportunity to grow Aer Lingus. We think that opportunity is significantly enhanced by being part of IAG.”

However, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, speaking on behalf of Aer Lingus unions, said they “remain unconvinced” of the proposed takeover.

Commenting after the meeting, ICTU official Liam Berney said: “While we welcome the opportunity afforded by the meeting to raise issues of concern and to question both IAG and Aer Lingus management on the proposed takeover, we heard nothing today to change our views. We went into this meeting as a group of unions unconvinced of the merits of the proposal and that remains our position. Ultimately, critical issues relating to job security, staff terms and conditions and connectivity remain unanswered.”

A union source said Mr Walsh had remained adamant on the five-year guarantee on the Heathrow slots. The source also pointed out that the jobs growth alluded to by Mr Walsh had already existed in Aer Lingus’s own plans.

One source said Mr Walsh told the union delegation he thought a Registered Employment Agreement, a binding agreement on pay and conditions in the airline, was a good idea as there was the same thing in Iberia and it was very positive. He also told the staff representatives the existing terms and conditions would remain.

Some detail was also given about areas where there could be potential job losses, due to duplication of functions with IAG. They included the treasury section which looks after issues such as the hedging of fuel, investor relations, and information technology.

The companies have indicated that job losses at the airline would be offset by job gains within 12 months, with more than 600 new positions filled by 2020.

New Aer Lingus chief executive Stephen Kavanagh disagreed that little detail had been provided to staff representatives.

He said: “There is very little that’s left in doubt. I think the position of IAG and Aer Lingus is completely clear, and ultimately it’s for others now to reflect upon what’s been communicated with them, and to continue to engage with us if further clarification is required, but ultimately the bona fides of the proposition and the value of the combination to all is becoming clearer.”

Mr Walsh told unions he was willing to meet them again. However, it is believed further communication is likely to have to take place between unions and Aer Lingus management.

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