MARTIN WALL Industry Correspondent
Aer Lingus has warned that the introduction of new rosters being sought by cabin crew could force it to move its bases for its trans-atlantic fleet to America with the loss of more than 300 jobs in Ireland.
However it has also invited the trade union representing cabin crew, who are planning to stage a 24 -hour strike on Friday, to talks aimed at addressing “genuine issues” over rosters.
In a letter to cabin crew who are to stage the strike on Friday as part of a dispute over rosters, the company said that their demands would significantly increase its costs and drive inefficiencies in its operations.
The airline said that the introduction of the so-called 5:3:5:3 roster pattern being sought by cabin crew would “necessitate measures to address the increased costs” that would be generated.
“These measures include the establishment of North American bases to service trans-Atlantic flights.This would lead to the reduction of Irish-based crew numbers by over 300 and would limit Irish bases to short-haul flying only.”
However in a separate letter to the trade union Impact, which represents cabin crew, the airline said it was committed to finding solutions to addressing genuine roster issues without adding to costs or increasing complexity to its business. It invited the union to meet to discuss the matters.
Aer Lingus also maintained that the strike action planned for Friday would reduce its ability to invest in its network and in new aircraft.
The company said that if the industrial action was prolonged it would “also affect both our security and independence”.
Aer Lingus said that the strike action scheduled for Friday had already disrupted the plans of around 30,000 people.
It also said that the planned stoppage had damaged its forward bookings for the rest of the year as customers had shied away from making reservations with the airline due to uncertainty created by strike threats made by Impact.
Aer Lingus said the strike plan had damaged its long-term relationship with its customers.
“We have already lost a very significant amount of revenue and profitability. continuing on this self-destructive path serves only to further undermine our company and the livlihoods of everyone in it.”
“It has associated the Aer Lingus brand with a pre-disposition for strike action. It takes many years to undo such damage.”
Cabin crew had maintained that they wanted the company to implement rosters which were similar to those in place for pilots.
The airline said that pilots had to provide many concessions and significant changes in return for the introduction of a fixed pattern roster.
“Many of the concessions required to achieve a fixed roster pattern for cabin crew may be more unpalatable to you than your current working pattern.”
Impact said that cabin crew regretted disruption that would be caused by the planned strike but that by refusing to discuss roster changes, the company left them no choice.
It said the strike on Friday and the continuing uncertainty faced by customers, could have been avoided if the suggestion to trial run the “5:3” roster pattern on Aer Lingus short haul services had been taken seriously by the airline.
The union said that cabin crew “don’t want to engage in strike, they are exercising the only option left to them”.
“They feel very strongly that the service to customers and the relationship with them is being actively undermined by overworking the crew at peak periods, and ignoring the potential offered by a more sustainable, better planned rostering system.”
“Strike action is always the action of last resort, and it has been more than a decade since there was an action of this sort at the airline. It could have been avoided, but attempts to raise the core issues by cabin crew were routinely ignored.”