Aer Lingus cabin crew say the company is exploiting the uncertainty surrounding the future of the airline sector to push through sweeping changes in employee terms.
Workers say the airline knows it has all the power as there are no planes to be grounded by industrial action due to the Covid-19 travel restrictions. They want management to return to negotiations with union officials to thrash out a deal that works for all parties.
It comes on foot of cabin crew overwhelmingly rejecting changes to their working conditions. They say the proposals, which the airline withdrew last Monday after staff failed to respond to the company's deadline, would have put many staff into significant debt with Aer Lingus immediately.
After staff missed last Monday's deadline, Aer Lingus chief executive Sean Doyle said the company would proceed with temporary lay-offs and cuts to pay and hours by up to 70%. Days later, Aer Lingus announced 500 redundancies.
Cabin crew, who are represented by the Fórsa trade union, voted 75% to 25% to reject the proposals. The postal ballot turnout was 82%. Fórsa said the results justify the insistence on holding a ballot.
A spokesperson for Fórsa said staff "are being treated with disdain by their management".
He accused Aer Lingus management of trying to "antagonise" staff over the last ten days.
He said they respect the approaches taken by other organisations within the Aer Lingus group of unions in terms of changes to terms but the cabin crew branch "could not accept the sweeping changes on behalf of cabin crew - including debt-accrual - without a ballot".
“The company’s actions over the last ten days have shown a total disregard for staff," a spokesperson said.
"Management has sought to deny a voice to the people affected by its proposals, with the laughable suggestion that a one-week ballot process would jeopardise a package that will be in place for more than a year and a half.
“It has agreed far superior proposals for its better-paid staff. And, in its impatience, it has announced 500 redundancies and imposed a further pay cut, which means the taxpayer is now footing most or all of its pay bill."
Just 5% of Aer Lingus flights are currently operating, though the airline plans to increase its schedules in July. The airline has previously said it expects its business to shrink by 20% next year, with up to 900 jobs on the line in this scenario.
Aer Lingus said since the union did not respond by the June 15 deadline, the proposal "had lapsed".
"In advance of the announcement of the ballot result, Aer Lingus had informed Fórsa that the ballot outcome had no standing," an Aer Lingus spokesperson said.