Tough move against pilots could disrupt Aer Lingus flights

 

Aer Lingus services will face disruption after a strike on Thursday if it makes the acceptance of new arrangements a condition of a return to work, the pilots' union has warned.

It is understood Aer Lingus management is considering refusing to allow pilots who strike on Thursday to resume work unless they agree to changes in rosters and rest periods.

The company is also hiring aircraft and crews to maintain some Dublin-London flights and one Dublin-New York flight, sources confirmed.

Two more pilots were suspended yesterday for refusing to co-operate with the new rest and rostering arrangements, bringing the total to five. The suspensions resulted in the decision to hold a one-day strike on Thursday.

There were no plans for talks to resolve the dispute, which arises out of the company's survival plan. Working arrangements proposed by an independent arbitrator were rejected earlier this month by pilots in the Irish Airline Pilots Association, a branch of IMPACT. They argue that some of the changes are "unacceptable and unnecessary" and that the arbitration was not binding.

The company argues that negotiations on its survival plan are complete and insists that the rostering and rest arrangements be implemented. World Cup supporters due to fly to Japan on Thursday will leave on Wednesday instead.

Thursday's strike will affect the timing of flights on Wednesday and details of these changes are published in today's newspapers. Details of flights on Thursday are to be announced today and published tomorrow.

IMPACT assistant general secretary Mr Michael Landers said yesterday that if the company demands agreement to the new arrangements before pilots go back to work after the strike, "nobody will be going back on Friday morning".

The company is in talks on hiring aircraft and crews for some Dublin-London flights and one Dublin-New York flight on Thursday. Mr Landers said his members were "prepared" for this move but he did not wish to reveal what they intended to do. Members of pilots' unions in the US and the UK would be telling their managements they did not want to be involved in the dispute at Aer Lingus.

Aer Lingus made a loss of €150 million last year and is projected to lose €27 million this year, followed by a profit of about €25 million next year.