Industrial action looms at Aer Lingus

Fri, Oct 26, 2012, 01:00

Industrial action at Aer Lingus seems increasingly likely following the break-down of talks in a row over pensions.

Unions at the airline will meet on Tuesday to consider what action to take in the wake of the collapse of the talks at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC).

Aer Lingus has refused to go to the Labour Court on the issue of dealing with a €748 million hole in the pension scheme for workers in the airline and in the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA).

The trade union Siptu said this afternoon that staff representatives were “left with no choice but to meet on Tuesday to consider the appropriate forms of industrial or other action necessary to bring this dispute over the pension deficit to a satisfactory conclusion”.

Siptu organiser Dermot O’Loughlin said it was disappointing that the talks at the Labour Relations Commission had broken down.

“It is disappointing that there has been no progress in the discussions to resolve the crisis which threatens thousands of employees with financial ruin in their retirement years. The intransigence of Aer Lingus is particularly disturbing as the airline is responsible for its failure to properly fund the pension scheme over many years.

“At the same time, the company has made generous pension contributions for a small number of elite staff which are ten times greater than those made for employees at lower grades. Aer Lingus has cash reserves of €1 billion and could resolve this issue if it had the will to do so. Unlike the DAA, it has refused to engage in meaningful discussions at the Labour Court or LRC over recent weeks," Mr O’Loughlin said.

Talks between unions and management at the DAA on the pension issue are continuing.

Ryanair, which owns almost 30 per cent of Aer Lingus, said it supports the former State carrier’s stance and would supply aircraft in the event of a strike.

“Ryanair will provide every assistance to Aer Lingus to maintain competition with Ryanair, and defeat these threats of disruption to Aer Lingus schedules by Aer Lingus unions who are yet again seeking to unjustly enrich themselves at the expense of Aer Lingus’ shareholders,” said spokesman Stephen McNamara.

It also called on the DAA to dismiss any further attempt by its unions to “featherbed” their pension schemes, as any cost increase will inevitably be passed on to passengers.

Elsewhere, Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley said immediate intervention is needed by Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar to prevent an immensely costly strike by Aer Lingus.

“A strike by Aer Lingus cabin and ground crew could cause untold damage to both the tourism industry while there would be a huge knock-on effect to the economy as well,” he said.

“We are heading into the busy Christmas period, and a November strike by Aer Lingus could dissuade much of our diaspora from returning for Christmas.”

Additional reporting: PA

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