Union warning on Aer Lingus ballot

“I WOULDN’T book flights on Aer Lingus for any date soon,” was the ominous warning from one informed union source, ahead of today’s counting of worker votes on the airline’s new cost-cutting measures.

SIPTU has re-balloted its 1,800 members on the airline’s Programme for Continuous Improvement 2007 (PCI-07) savings programme.

The programme affects staff rosters, pay packet and holidays and while it was eventually accepted by cabin crew and pilots, the ground staff represented by SIPTU have stood firm.

After protracted negotiations over an almost 18-month period, the union’s shop stewards recommended a package of company proposals to its members last month.

However, at the start of this month the workers voted three-to-one against acceptance.

Intense negotiations directly with staff members yielded enough progress for the union to be willing to re-ballot the Dublin, Cork and Shannon ground crews.

Nonetheless, ahead of today’s count the union is predicting that while the margin will be closer, it is far from certain there will be enough of a swing to give the airline a majority of support.

“It is 50-50 whether it will go through or not,” said Gerry McCormack of SIPTU. “If it fails, we will not be having any more talks. This is the end of the road and people have made up their minds.”

He said that if the members vote against, it is likely the company will push ahead with PCI and that can only result in strike action by ground staff.

Meanwhile, trade unions representing staff at Dublin, Shannon and Cork airports have demanded a meeting with the Minister for Transport over the proposals to “saddle” Cork airport with €113 million of debt.

The DAA/Aer Rianta group of unions said it wants Noel Dempsey to honour guarantees given to workers four years ago when the 2004 State Airports Act was enacted. These included protecting the commercial viability of all three airports, it said.

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