Trade union Fórsa's proposed settlement for 81 cabin crew whose jobs are threatened by Aer Lingus's plans to close its Shannon base would cost an extra €2.65 million, the airline told the Labour Court.
Aer Lingus came under fire from Fórsa and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions this week for refusing to attend a Labour Court hearing on its plans to close the Shannon Airport cabin crew base.
In a letter to the court outlining why it did not appear, Aer Lingus states that the redundancy and redeployment terms sought by Fórsa for the 81 cabin crew affected would add €2.65 million to the airline’s existing offer.
The carrier adds that should all 81 workers leave on the terms it has already offered, the total bill would be €7.2 million, so the union’s demands would add a further 37 per cent to this.
The letter, from Aer Lingus chief people officer Brian Bowden, describes this as "simply not affordable or acceptable and cannot be reconciled with the seriousness of our current situation".
He argues that with further pandemic-related redundancies likely, Aer Lingus could not afford an agreement that would increase the “going rate” for this. Mr Bowden said the company was losing €1 million a day.
The carrier is offering staff five weeks’ pay for every year worked, to a cap of €180,000, including statutory redundancy, plus travel concessions to the workers and their families after they leave.
Crew can move to Cork or Dublin Airports, where Aer Lingus is also seeking voluntary redundancies and transfers, which would facilitate staff redeploying from Shannon.
Fórsa referred the issue to the Labour Court following consultations which began in May when Aer Lingus announced the Shannon closure.
The union accused management of treating its workers and the court disrespectfully. Fórsa official Ian McDonnell said the airline put terms to workers following an incomplete consultation.
Mr Bowden’s letter tells the court that Aer Lingus cannot attend the hearing while acknowledging that this is a break with normal practice.
“The reason that we cannot participate is that given the unprecedented challenges facing the company at this time, we are not in a position to accept any recommendation from the court that could increase the cost or vary the options that have been offered to impacted crew,” he says.
A Fórsa spokesman responded there would be no industrial relations system if every employer refused to go to the Labour Court in case it ruled against them.
“Aer Lingus is effectively putting its case in a letter while refusing to accept the Labour Court’s competence to assess both sides of the argument before making an independent recommendation,” he said.
The spokesman argued that Aer Lingus did not take this attitude to national institutions when it received “large sums of money in Covid supports over the last 18 months”.