Aer Lingus ground crew reject recovery plan sparking job loss fears

Siptu members vote against the airline’s Covid-19 crisis proposals

The union’s rejection of the Aer Lingus recovery plan now raises the possibility that the airline will begin formal talks on redundancies with the union. Photograph: Tom Honan

The union’s rejection of the Aer Lingus recovery plan now raises the possibility that the airline will begin formal talks on redundancies with the union. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

Aer Lingus ground crew have rejected its Covid-19 crisis recovery plan by a 55 per cent majority, sparking fears of extensive job losses at the airline.

About 1,500 Siptu members in Aer Lingus across Cork, Dublin and Shannon airports have been voting on work practice changes and other proposals since late June.

The union confirmed that members have rejected the proposals by 55 per cent to 45 per cent.

Their rejection now raises the possibility that the airline will begin formal talks on redundancies with the union.

It also means that workers will remain on 30 per cent of normal pay while others will remain on temporary lay-off.

Aer Lingus last month said it would have to cut up to 500 jobs from its 4,500-strong workforce after earlier efforts to broker a deal with unions failed.

The airline subsequently negotiated a second agreement with Siptu officials that was meant to significantly reduce the need for job losses among the ground crew and support staff whom the union represents.

Siptu officials put this to a members’ vote at the end of June, but could offer no explanation for the ballot’s result on Tuesday.

Sources suggested that the ongoing uncertainty at Aer Lingus, and in the aviation industry generally, following the coronavirus pandemic, prompted workers to reject the plan.

Siptu divisional organiser Karan O’Loughlin said this was a difficult time for aviation industry workers.

“We will now meet with workplace representatives to discuss the outcome of the ballot and to find a way forward that can protect the pay and employment of our members at the airline,” she added.

Next steps

Aer Lingus confirmed that the proposals would have allowed the gradual restoration of pay and hours while allowing laid-off staff to return to work.

“That restoration of hours and pay and return to work will not now take place,” the company said.

“In the context of the unprecedented and deepening crisis being faced by the aviation industry in Ireland, Aer Lingus will now consider its next steps.”

Ground crew, support staff and maintenance workers could account for up to 270 of the proposed job losses at the airline, with Siptu bearing the brunt of this.

Had Siptu members backed the proposals, Aer Lingus had pledged to restore any of its members who are currently temporarily laid off and pay the difference between the Government’s Covid support scheme and 50 per cent of their regular pay.

The company had also agreed to pay staff now receiving 30 per cent of their regular pay the difference between that and 50 per cent.

Primarily, the deal required workers to take on extra duties within their sections, something a certain number of them are doing already.