Aer Lingus says planned crew strikes are ‘reckless’

Airline accuses Impact union of cynically distoring position

Aer Lingus cabin crew are to strike for two days later this month: Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Aer Lingus cabin crew are to strike for two days later this month: Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Sun, Jun 8, 2014, 13:04

Aer Lingus has described the planned strikes by cabin crew at the airline next week as “reckless and “unwarranted”.

In a letter sent yesterday to the trade union Impact, which represents the cabin crew, the airline urged an immediate withdrawal of the notice of the work stoppages which are planned to take place on Monday June 16th and WednesdayJune 18th.

Aer Lingus accused Impact of cynically distorting its position in talks last week to generate a contrived basis for announcing further strike action. The company said that Impact had inaccurately suggested that management had walked out of talks last week which were aimed at resolving a row over rosters.

Over 60,000 people face having their travel plans disrupted in the event of the strikes going ahead.

About 28,000 people were affected by a strike at Aer Lingus by cabin crew late last month as part of the dispute over rosters.

The letter sent by Aer Lingus to Impact yesterday followed correspondence sent by the trade union to the airline on Friday in which it accused management of not negotiating in good faith.

Cabin crew are seeking the introduction of a revised roster arrangement – five days on, followed by three days off, similar to that in place for pilots at the airline.

The cabin crew have maintained that the existing rosters are erratic, exhausting and cause difficulties for family life. The union has sought the airline to introduce the so-called 5:3:5:3 rosters on a trial basis.

In a letter to the airline on Friday the union said that management had stated that it was only prepared to consider a permanent 5:3 roster arrangement across the entirety of its short-haul fleet. This would involve a complete split between long haul and short haul operations. Cabin crew currently work on both long haul and short haul services.

“The version you have chosen to model seems to have been deliberately selected as a model that, by its very design, will indeed drive extra cost. In this regard I note that it has been the company’s consistent position for over two decades that integration of shorthaul and long haul rosters produced efficiencies and cost savings.”

“Consistent with this, Aer Lingus has always opposed any attempt to have a separate long haul group. However, by now making the separation of long haul and shorthaul a precondition for the introduction of the 53 roster you are deliberately engineering a situation whereby the 53 roster will inevitably appear to be less efficient and more costly than the current chaotic roster”, the Impact letter stated.

Aer Lingus has also said it would welcome the assistance of a third party in dealing with its dispute with cabin crew.

The airline said it would support the involvement of a third party who could establish the facts in the current row over rosters and “direct the parties in a neutral manner to jointly undertake the analysis required to resolve the issue”.

Aer Lingus said that in general its preference was to have an internal resolution mechanism in place for all disputes with the company.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said the possibility of further industrial action at Aer Lingus was a matter of “grave concern”.

He said the State’s industrial relations machinery remained available to both sides in the dispute over rosters and that it should be utilised if direct negotiations have proved unsuccessful.

“This dispute can and will only be resolved through negotiation,” Mr Varadkar said today.

In a statement on its website, the airline said it wished to assure customers that it would do all in its power to prevent any disruption to their travel plans.

“We sincerely apologise to customers for the uncertainty this threatened industrial action causes.”

It said regional services were not affected in any way by the dispute.

Aer Lingus Regional services are not affected in any way by this dispute. Services to and from Belfast are also unaffected and will operate in full.

“Our operations team will now commence a planning process aimed at minimising the effects on our flight schedule. We will inform customers via this website and all other available channels of communication of further developments in the coming days,” the airline said.

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