Trade union Siptu served Aer Lingus with strike notice tonight and said such action could include full withdrawal of labour, or work stoppages from November 24th if the airline pressed ahead with a cost-cutting plan without agreement.
National industrial secretary Gerry McCormack wrote to Aer Lingus chief executive Dermot Mannion today notifying him of the decision of union members to take strike action from November 24th, a Siptu statement said.
Mr McCormack said members had voted by an "overwhelming majority" to take action if the company unilaterally attempts to introduce its plan to cut 1,245 jobs.
"This decision of our members in the Aer Lingus Branch, Cork No 5 Branch and Shannon Aviation Branch has now been sanctioned by the national executive of Siptu and you are hereby served with 14 days official notice of same," the letter states.
Mr McCormack told the chief executive in the letter Siptu had made "every attempt so far to resolve this dispute procedurally, however, the company withdrew from the talks process chaired by Mr Kevin Foley of the Labour Relations Commission".
"It is our firm view that the actions of the company have brought about a completely avoidable situation. Our members are equally firmly of the view that as a result of the company now proceeding to implement its outsourcing/change proposals the industrial action/strike action will become unavoidable with all the consequent disruption and loss to the employees, customers and airline."
Siptu shop stewards met this evening at Dublin airport following the service of strike notice on the company for November 24th. They decided to set up strike committees in all locations to manage the dispute if the need arises, a spokesman said.
Mr McCormack said after the meeting he had informed the representatives that Ictu had written to the Secretary General of the Taoiseach¿s Department Dermot McCarthy, asking for a meeting of the National Implementation Body to seek a resolution to the dispute.
¿We are available to attend a meeting if asked and we would urge the company to do so and help avert a potentially very damaging dispute¿, he said.
Aer Lingus director of corporate affairs Enda Corneille, said the company was "very disappointed" with Siptu¿s decision and the uncertainty this created for customers.
"However, it is important to point out that none of the 10 routes operated from Belfast International airport will be affected by the threatened industrial action," he said.
Aer Lingus chief executive Dermot Mannion said last week the airline¿s plan to introduce nearly 1,500 job cuts through out-sourcing, voluntary redundancy or early retirement was unstoppable.
He said the company's financial position had deteriorated significantly over recent months and while fuel costs had improved, consumer demand had worsened significantly
Overall, the company was facing operating losses this year and further significant operating losses next year, he said.
Aer Lingus last week published details of its voluntary severance and early retirement schemes.
These will allow staff a number of options, including a €40,000 (maximum €70,000) lump sum, nine weeks' basic pay per year of service subject to a maximum of 145 weeks or four weeks' pay per year of service to a maximum of 104 weeks, plus a service bonus of €2,750 per year of service, depending on circumstances.
Labour Party transport spokesman Tommy Broughan called on Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey to act urgently and to use all the State¿s industrial relations mechanisms to avert a "potentially devastating" strike at Aer Lingus in the run-up to Christmas.