LABOUR CONFERENCE: Delegates reject Aer Lingus sale plan

Grass-roots members have overwhelmingly rejected plans to sell the State’s “jewel in the crown”, Aer Lingus, unless IAG agrees to an independent valuation of the firm alongside further regional connectivity and jobs guarantees.

TDs Joe Costello, Robert Dowds, Dominic Hannigan, Seán Kenny, John Lyons, Eamon Maloney, Michael McNamara, and Brendan Ryan put forward a motion against the sale of the Government’s 25.1% stake, stressing any bid cannot be accepted unless it includes:

  • An “independent valuation” of Aer Lingus assets, including “a valuation of the 23 Heathrow slots”;
  • A“firm commitment in the form of registered employment agreements” preventing outsourcing of jobs, compulsory redundancies, and cuts to contract conditions;
  • “Meaningful and reliable” long-term guarantees on connectivity and Heathrow slots;
  • A clear plan on how Cork and Shannon airports will continue to be promoted should any sale take place, taking into account “impact on their individual regions”.

The position was almost unanimously backed by delegates, who underlined their position exactly a week after former Labour minister Pat Rabbitte — who was also in attendance — said the deal should be accepted.

They included Mr Costello and Mr McNamara, who had earlier hit out at criticism of their stance as “parish-pump politics”. Mr McNamara said what is at stake is “every parish from Cork to Clare to Donegal”.

“We saw [IAG chief] Willie Walsh say he does not do second bids, but already Willie Walsh is on his third bid and he is working on a fourth,” added Mr Costello. “The regions in the United Kingdom have been served atrociously by IAG; Manchester and Birmingham have no international hub nor do Edinburgh, Glasgow or Belfast. So I believe we must look very carefully at this.”

Delegate John Dowling, from Labour’s Kilmacud branch, spoke out against the wider view by saying Aer Lingus is now “in play” on the market meaning more “sharks” are likely to come and the current deal may be the best available. Mr Dowling said that the alternative could be a figure like Ryanair’s Michael O Leary replacing IAG chief executive Mr Walsh at some point in the future, who will drive a harder bargain.

However, Siptu president and Labour member Jack O’Connor, said the fact Mr O’Leary is backing the sale, despite not being known for his “generosity” towards rival companies, shows it is a bad deal for Aer Lingus.

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