Trade unions could lift their opposition to a takeover of Aer Lingus by International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) if some concerns were addressed, sources said after the sides met yesterday.
IAG chief executive Willie Walsh and his Aer Lingus counterpart, Stephen Kavanagh, discussed the group's €1.36 billion bid for the airline for 90 minutes at a Dublin Airport hotel.
Following the meeting, union sources said it was unlikely that they would ever openly back a deal. “But we could see a situation where we would be neutral, or at least less hostile,” one said.
The source added that concerns over the future of at least some of the airline’s 3,900 jobs and its existing collective agreements with unions would have to be addressed before they reached that point.
Neither Mr Walsh nor Mr Kavanagh went far beyond what they have already said in public when they met with representatives of Impact, Siptu and Ictu.
The two chief executives signalled that they would be willing to contemplate registered employment agreements at Aer Lingus should legislation be passed allowing such deals. They also fielded questions from workplace shop stewards from both unions.
However, Ictu issued a statement following the meeting saying that it remained to be convinced of the merits of IAG’s proposed takeover.
The union meeting followed talks this week between IAG and a Government body set up to review its proposed €2.55-a-share offer for Aer Lingus. It has been suggested that IAG could extend guarantees that Aer Lingus’s Heathrow slots would be used only to serve routes from Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports for five years. However, Mr Walsh told the unions yesterday that if he extended the pledge beyond that period, it would not be good for Aer Lingus as there would be no incentive for the Irish airports to cut charges or offer other incentives to the airline.
The Government wants IAG to extend the five-year period before it will consider selling the State’s 25.1 per cent stake. Mr Walsh said publicly last month that he was not willing to go beyond that period.