Strike looms as Aer Lingus ends talks

DISRUPTIVE strike action is looming at Aer Lingus after it last night pulled out of talks with SIPTU on an alternative to its plans to make redundant or outsource 1,500 ground staff.

The airline said it had yesterday received proposals from outsourcing suppliers who will take on the ground operations and said it will be in a position to select the successful candidate by the end of next week.

Aer Lingus has been in talks with SIPTU for four weeks. The airline had entered the talks in the Labour Relations Commission to allow the unions to come up with an alternative method of saving €50 million.

“Following four weeks of discussions, it is frankly disappointing that SIPTU has failed to engage in any meaningful way to produce alternative proposals to meet this imperative,” a spokeswoman said. “The reality is that the airline does not have time on its side and cannot endure another year of losses in 2009.”

It said it would be advising employees of their individual options over the next two weeks.

Staff can either take a voluntary severance package or be transferred to the new service provider under the Transfer of Undertakings.

SIPTU national industrial secretary Gerry McCormack said: “The company withdrew from the process because it claimed that it could not see any viable alternatives to its own outsourcing agenda. We are bitterly disappointed.

“We are also very concerned that we have not been able to get answers to substantial questions concerning how the very large costs that will be incurred on the pension fund will be met if there are mass redundancies at the airline.”

It has been claimed it could cost the airline between €250m and €550m to shore up the pension fund for existing pensioners if there are 1,500 less people contributing to it.

SIPTU is currently completing a ballot for strike action at the airline.

That ballot will be completed by the end of next week and if members vote in favour the union can effectively ground the airline with a complete walkout.

“We will be reviewing our position at a full meeting of shop stewards on Friday afternoon,” said Gerry McCormack. “Meanwhile our ballot is continuing and, should the company proceed unilaterally with its outsourcing plans, we will proceed in turn with industrial action.”

Meanwhile, the company remains in talks with cabin crew union IMPACT over its plans to make redundant or redeploy 200 crew in Shannon and Heathrow, as well as staffing all New York, Boston and San Francisco services with US-based direct entry cabin staff.


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