Aer Lingus agrees to meet union to discuss cost-saving proposals

Workers concerned workplace changes may become permanent regardless of recovery

Aer Lingus said it lost €563 million last year amid the pandemic

Aer Lingus said it lost €563 million last year amid the pandemic

 

Aer Lingus has agreed to meet representatives from the Fórsa trade union at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) for a conciliation hearing as the airline and its employees seek to thrash out an agreement on cost-saving proposals.

The move comes after both cabin crew and staff working in ground operations at Dublin Airport overwhelmingly rejected proposals by the carrier that include new work practices and lower pay scales for new entrants.

Fórsa, which represents 1,300 cabin crew members, on Wednesday welcomed the airline’s decision to meet in the coming days. Last week, its members voted 82 per cent against the airline’s proposals. Aer Lingus ground staff have also since rejected what it described as the “one-sided” cost-saving proposals by a similar margin.

Workers are understood to be concerned about any workplace changes that are implemented being made on a permanent basis without any consideration for what happens should the sector bounce back.

Implement

Aer Lingus lost €563 million last year amid the coronavirus pandemic, and has threatened to unilaterally implement a range of tough measures.

Siptu, which represents about 1,100 workers employed by Aer Lingus as ground crew in Dublin Airport, has written to the airline to confirm the ballot results, stressing that the proposals are not balanced enough in terms of a potential recovery in the sector.

Aer Lingus reiterated on Wednesday the need to introduce cost reductions and work practice changes. It said the business is facing “serious challenges” arising from the Covid crisis.

“The effects of the pandemic have been prolonged and are ongoing, and the requirement for immediate and structural change is urgent,” the airline said in a statement.

Reduced hours

Meanwhile, feelings continue to run high among workers. Many employees have been on reduced hours and income throughout the pandemic, with uncertainty as to when or if things might return to normal.

“The scale of the vote against the restructuring proposals reflects how people are feeling after such a long period of reduced income and prolonged uncertainty,” said one industry source.

Unions have been calling for industry-specific income supports for aviation for the past year, on the basis that it will be among the last sectors to recover from a pandemic-related downturn. However, there is also optimism that, as more people are vaccinated, international travel will once again open up.