Aer Lingus staff face suspension from Monday

AER LINGUS will start suspending ground staff from next Monday if they fail to co-operate with the airline’s new cost-saving measures, which come into effect the same day.

It has also announced its intention to pull out of collective agreements on overtime and rostering — agreements built up with workers over a number of decades.

Stoppages by ground staff could start within days.

In a letter sent to the airline’s 1,800 ground staff yesterday, Aer Lingus said it had made “every effort” over the past 14 months to get agreement from workers on its €20 million programme for continuous improvement cost-saving plan.

However, it said that after visits to the Labour Relations Commission, Labour Court and Labour Relations Commission, it was no longer prepared to delay.

The staff had already been given a deadline of Friday to agree on how to implement PCI-07 before the measures were due to begin on Monday.

Yesterday’s letter advised that the airline had given SIPTU three months’ notice that it would be withdrawing from all collective agreements covering overtime rostered, daily allowances and shift payment arrangements.

Such moves will allow it to reduce overtime and introduce rostering efficiencies as part of its economy drive.

In the interim, staff will be expected to co-operate with the first phase of savings, which will affect work breaks and shift times.

“Should agreement not be reached by Friday, Aer Lingus expects all employees to co-operate with the introduction of these changes with effect from Monday, February 25,” the airline said in the letter. “It is important that you understand, that if you fail to unreservedly engage in your full range of duties as may be instructed and requested, you will be suspended from the payroll.”

SIPTU condemned the letter and sources indicated the battle between the two sides is going to get very dirty. The union said it had gone into a National Implementation Body mediation process in good faith and believed progress had been made until the company released its version of what had been agreed weeks later.

“They delayed for three weeks to begin with and then inserted issues that were never agreed at the National Implementation Body process or the Labour Relations Commission process,” said SIPTU national industrial secretary Gerry McCormack.

“They then said ‘that is our position on it, end of story, it’s a deal breaker that’s it’ even if it is not part of an agreement. They have done that on a number of these issues. We have asked them to go back into the Labour Relations Commission, we have asked them to bring back the two experts in the process and they have refused to do that.”

He confirmed the vote for strike action will be complete by Sunday and that the union will meet this evening to decide the nature and timing of the action, which will be triggered when the company tries to enforce PCI-07 on Monday.

“We do not have to give notice of the action,” he added. “We will hit them when we feel it is the best time to do so. The difference to previous threats of action is that we expect it really will happen this time unless they agree to come back into the Labour Relations Commission.”

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