Union says Aer Lingus ‘fixated’ on layoff plans

AER LINGUS has been accused of “going through the motions” in the failed talks with unions over its plans to axe 1,500 jobs at the airline.

SIPTU, which represents the 1,250 ground staff who Aer Lingus wants to outsource or make redundant, said that during the talks at the Labour Relations Commission, the company was fixated on progressing with its plans no matter what the union put forward.

Today the union meets with its shop stewards to discuss their next step but one union source admitted it was now seemed “inevitable” there would the threat of industrial action within the next month.

“We are convinced, by their refusal to answer some of the basic questions of most concern to our members, that the company was simply going through the motions in the talks,” said SIPTU industrial secretary Gerry McCormack.

“Frankly the management team was fixated on outsourcing the vast majority of members’ jobs, even though they knew SIPTU was opposed to allowing quality employment to be driven out of the labour market by low standards and a race to the bottom, ” he said.

The union claims that it had entered the talks wanting guarantees over the security of the airline’s future in Shannon as well as improved redundancy terms proposed.

“Of particular concern was the value of any redundancy package on offer and the implications of such a massive shedding of jobs for the pension fund,” he said. “Without putting figures on these two items it is impossible to assess the real, net, gains the airline would make from shedding over 1,250 jobs. This is not just a difficult time for airlines but it is also a difficult time for people to be thrown on the labour market — and for pension funds.”

While the airline has not given a final figure for redundancy terms it is widely anticipated it will offer a €40,000 lump sum to anyone with more than 18 months service and those who have been with Aer Lingus for a longer period will be offered nine weeks’ salary for every year of service, capped at 145 weeks. The union wanted the number of weeks increased to 10 and the cap removed.

SIPTU has claimed the cost of shoring up the pension fund to cope with over 1,250 employees leaving will be enormous.

“Commentators estimate the cost could be anything between €250m and €540m,” said Mr McCormack. “Even at the lower figure, it would take five years for the company to recoup the expense from staff savings, not to mention the cost of redundancies.”


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