Taoiseach Enda Kenny has moved to calm concerns about the potential sale of Aer Lingus and insisted any deal will be done in the “best interests of the whole country”.
There were warnings last night that any sale must include watertight protections for jobs and guard against potential hikes in ticket prices for consumers.
Following a presentation by Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe on the bid from IAG, the Cabinet yesterday gave the green light to the sale of the State’s 25% share in Aer Lingus to the parent company of British Airways.
The Dáil will vote on the proposal today.
Mr Kenny told the Dáil yesterday that concerns had previously been raised about a lack of cast-iron guarantees on connectivity, airport slots, jobs, and the airline’s brand in relation to IAG’s €1.3bn bid. He said any decision made would be in the “best interests of the people and the whole country”.
The Government in February rejected a bid from IAG which only included a five-year guarantee of slots at Heathrow.
Mr Kenny said the Government would not tolerate considering a sale without strong guarantees. There is a need to keep the Heathrow slots for the “huge numbers of people” coming here in the years ahead, he said.
Some TDs who had previously raised concerns about selling the Aer Lingus stake indicated support for the deal last night. Labour TD Joe Costello said the airline had seen unprecedented growth last year while Fine Gael TD Pat Breen said he was confident issues he had raised had been addressed.
Staff signalled that they would “vigorously” oppose the sale if Aer Lingus fails to provide commitments that it will not impose compulsory redundancies or outsource jobs.
Ahead of the Cabinet meeting, Mr Donohoe met with Siptu, which represents ground crew, and Impact, which predominantly represents cabin crew and pilots.
Impact officials reiterated that assurances offered by IAG and Aer Lingus about job security — in the event of a successful takeover — were essentially worthless.
Siptu said it was clear from the start of the process that the sale of the government shares should not be considered unless clear guarantees can be made.
“Siptu members are concerned that, as the proposals currently stand, the management of Aer Lingus has failed to give clear commitments that it will not impose the outsourcing of jobs or compulsory redundancies,” said Siptu divisional organiser Owen Reidy.
Michael Kilcoyne of the Consumers’ Association of Ireland said any merger between Aer Lingus and British Airways would harm customers and lead to hikes in ticket prices.
“My main concern is that we are an island nation and the most important issue is entry and departure on the island. We are no longer going to have control. We are leaving ourselves in a vulnerable position and the consumer has not been mentioned at all in the deliberations,” Mr Kilcoyne said.
“I can see why unions can get guarantees. But there is no word about what ticket prices will be.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved