Officials meet to discuss progress in Aer Lingus dispute

SIPTU officials will meet with Aer Lingus shop stewards this afternoon to establish whether the company and workers have made sufficient progress to stave off disruptive strike action at the airline.

Aer Lingus last week gave its 1,800 ground staff until today to agree to €10 million in cost-saving initiatives under its Programme for Continuous Improvement 2007 (PCI-07).

While the company has not confirmed it, preferring to remain silent in recent days, it is understood management has told staff that they will be taken off the payroll from tomorrow if they do not co-operate with the implementation of new rosters and working arrangements.

It is also rumoured that a lock-out will ensue on that day and that the airline will look at outsourcing several ground staff functions.

SIPTU’s disputes committee was due to meet last night to plan the union’s strategy in the event that Aer Lingus carries out its threat tomorrow.

SIPTU’s executive is in a tough position. After months of negotiation it thought it had reached an agreement on the PCI-07 document, which its members would accept. However, those members voted three to one against the deal.

Since then there have been behind-the-scenes talks between company and staff.

Tomorrow, the union will find out from its shop stewards whether enough compromise has been forthcoming.

According to one union source, if it is felt there has not been sufficient progress, the company will then have to take the next step. If it continues with the implementation of PCI-07 regardless, the union has the mandate to begin disruptive strike action. If it is felt there has been sufficient progress then there will have to be a re-ballot of members. That will entail yet more delays in implementing a programme that the company has been demanding for 18 months. Whether the company is willing to wait that much longer remains to be seen.

Aer Lingus has already concluded cost-saving agreements with pilots and cabin crew, which collectively will generate a further €10m in savings.

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