Up to 800 Aer Lingus cabin crew protest in Dublin

Company describes dispute over rosters as ‘unwarranted’ as over 200 flights cancelled

A 24-hour stoppage, which commenced this morning, has hit over 200 flights and affected the travel plans of some 30,000 people. The Impact union estimated that 800 staff are involved in a protest at Dublin airport. Video: Daniel O'Connor

 

A union representing cabin crewwho are striking today at Aer Lingus has warned of potential further stoppages if talks next week aimed at resolving the dispute over rosters fail to reach a resolution.

A 24-hour stoppage, which commenced this morning, has hit over 200 flights and affected the travel plans of some 30,000 people. The Impact union estimated that between 700 and 800 staff are involved in a protest at Dublin airport.

Pickets were also to be placed on Cork and Shannon airports.

Aer Lingus has cancelled most of its flights scheduled for today.

In a statement, the airline described the strike as “unwarranted and unnecessary” and said it would cause “huge disruption”.

The company said its cabin crew “enjoy some of the most favourable working conditions in Ireland. Changes to working conditions such as rosters should be agreed in an orderly and responsible manner and our paying customers should not be used as leverage by Impact in their negotiations”.

Aer Lingus said it was doing everything possible to minimise the effects of the strike and apologised to customers for the uncertainty caused.

In a letter of protest delivered to chief executive Christoph Mueller today, Impact said its members were engaged in the industrial action “because our experience has been that our employer won’t listen to us”.

“For three years we have raised concerns about the erratic nature of our rosters. We have become accustomed to the chaotic work patterns that are a direct product of those rosters, to the point where we understand the detrimental effect they are having on cabin crew, and the corrosive effect that they are having on the airline too.”

Talks between the airline and representatives of cabin crew aimed at averting further strike actions are expected to be held next week.

Cabin crew are asking the company to introduce a fixed roster involving five days working to be followed by three days off. This is similar to the arrangements in place for pilots at the company.

Cabin crew have argued that current roster arrangements are erratic and impose excessive fatigue.

Aer Lingus has said the introduction of rosters sought by staff would significantly increase costs.

Impact official Michael Landers said yesterday the company’s claims about the roster issues were “simply wrong”.

“Our members are not seeking extra leave. They are quite prepared to work to the demands of the schedule, but they need to have adequate periods of rests between blocks of duty.

“This would put an end to the chaotic roster patterns currently in use and make the rosters more sustainable. A revised working pattern would better equip the crew to meet the service and safety demands of their job.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of strike-bound passengers on an Aer Lingus flight to Boston last night were refused pre-flight immigration clearance in Dublin.

Passengers arrived at Dublin Airport some hours ahead of the flight to Boston, expecting to clear immigration.

However, they were told that the United States customs and border protection (USCBP) team, which supervises the service, would not offer it for this particular flight.

Passengers were obliged to join the normal immigration queues at Boston on arrival.

The flight had been laid on specially to accommodate passengers who had intended to travel to the US today but were forced to change their plans because of the one-day strike.

Dublin Airport Authority cites pre-clearance of immigration as one of the main features of its offering to transatlantic passengers.

A spokesman for the authority said that arrangements for pre-clearance of immigration were a matter for airlines and the USCBP, especially where extra non-scheduled flights were concerned.

Aer Lingus hired two aircraft yesterday for flights to accommodate transatlantic passengers. It is understood the US authorities agreed to process one but not the other, with the 5pm flight to Boston losing out.

The airline accepted last night that it had failed to inform passengers on the flight they would not be able to pre-clear immigration.

“It was not communicated to passengers that the flight was not pre-cleared,” a spokeswoman for the airline said. “I don’t know where the communications lapse occurred.”

Sources said talks between the two sides were not likely to get under way until the middle of next week.

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