However, following more than a year of talks and numerous strike action threats, Aer Lingus last night looked set to reach tentative agreement with at least half of its staff on the divisive Programme for Continuous Improvement 2007 efficiency document.
A last-minute hitch with ground staff over breaks was ironed out and, while there are a number of other teething difficulties, SIPTU, which represents those workers, said it was confident talks today and next week could see the production of a “joint working document”.
That agreement would then be brought back to the union members before the end of next week so they could vote on whether to accept it.
In fact, the union said it could have been in the current position weeks ago if the airline had not taken so long to produce an interpretation of the agreement hammered out by the two sides at the National Implementation Body in December.
“We are anxious to get through things as quickly as possible,” said SIPTU national industrial secretary Gerry McCormack. “However, the document printed by the airline on the talks was only given to us last week and therefore they stalled the process.”
The success that the company is encountering with SIPTU has not so far been matched in its discussions with IMPACT trade union, which represents cabin crew.
The airline last week accused that union of failing to engage properly in the talks on PCI-07.
At that point it said if agreement was not reached on the cost-saving document by January 31, it would keep two pay increases over-due to cabin crew under Towards 2016.
Aer Lingus said the money it would withhold — estimated at several million euro — would then be put towards the cost-saving programme.
However, yesterday the airline was giving no indication that it intended to follow through on the threat — merely describing talks as being at a delicate stage with the parties and saying it could not comment further.
Aer Lingus is under severe pressure to get its PCI document implemented. Airline management has always said that when it goes on its annual roadshow to investors worldwide in March it will have the savings in place.
It insists its competitiveness in the international market is dependent on being able to operate a cost-effective operation so it can ensure lower fares.