Fórsa says Aer Lingus shunned Labour Court hearing over Shannon closure

Airline emailed staff about transfers and redundancies instead on ‘take it or leave it’ terms

The Shannon closure will directly affect 83 Aer Lingus cabin crew.  Photograph: Alan Betson

The Shannon closure will directly affect 83 Aer Lingus cabin crew. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Cabin crew union Fórsa says Aer Lingus refused to attend a Labour Court hearing over the airline’s plan to close its Shannon base, where up to 126 jobs are at stake.

Aer Lingus plans to close its cabin crew base at Shannon Airport. It has offered affected workers the option of transferring to Cork or Dublin, or taking voluntary redundancy.

Fórsa said on Thursday that Aer Lingus refused to attend a Labour Court hearing on the planned closure after talks between management and the union failed to reach agreement on staff transfers or redundancy terms.

Instead the union says Aer Lingus emailed staff on Wednesday inviting them to apply for transfers to Cork or Dublin or opt for redundancy on “take it or leave it” terms.

Fórsa official Ian McDonnell accused the airline of failing to respect neither workers or the Labour Court.

He said the airline had received hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ cash through the Covid-19 crisis, but had spurned the State’s top industrial relations body and declared an incomplete staff consultation over.

“Far from trying to save jobs in the battered aviation sector, the airline’s approach is increasing the risk that loyal staff will be made redundant against their will and on substandard terms,” he declared.

The closure will directly affect 83 cabin crew, but could also have implications for ground crew based at the airport, meaning there is a question mark over 126 jobs.

Serious

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions wrote to Aer Lingus this week describing its refusal to attend the Labour Court as serious and a significant departure from “normal and agreed industrial relations procedures”.

Fórsa maintains that it sought meaningful talks with management, aimed at saving as many jobs as possible, when the airline announced the closure in May. The union wants redeployment prioritised over redundancy.

Aer Lingus said that the 16-month Covid-19 crisis had left if facing “significant restructuring” to rebuild its network and finances.

“This includes the permanent closure of the Aer Lingus cabin crew base at Shannon Airport,” the airline said.

“There has not been a flight out of Shannon since April 2020. The decision to close the Shannon cabin crew base was not taken lightly and a reversal will not be possible.”

Aer Lingus is losing about €1 million a day, while chief executive Lynne Embleton calculates that this, plus lost profits, amount to €1 billion in total.

Fórsa this week raised concerns with Taoiseach Micheál Martin and several senior Ministers over the Government’s slow response to the crisis in aviation.

Speaking at the Labour Employer Economic Forum, the union urged Government to provide a tailored aviation income support scheme to maintain employment through what will be a long recovery.

Mr McDonnell added that the union had fought to maintain employment so that companies like Aer Lingus would be ready to return once international travel restarted.

“The Government needs to decide if the crisis in this vital industry – and regions like Shannon – is to be permanent or temporary,” he said.

He argued that only the State had the resources to save the Republic’s vital air links with the rest of the world.