IMPACT accepts Aer Lingus talks invitation

Wednesday 28 May 2014 04.56
Aer Lingus' head of flight operations said the changes sought were inefficient
Aer Lingus' head of flight operations said the changes sought were inefficient

Aer Lingus cabin crew union IMPACT has accepted an invitation to talks from management.

Earlier, the company warned the cabin crew who are going on a one-day strike on Friday that the company was considering establishing bases in North America to service transatlantic routes with the loss of 300 Irish-based jobs. 

However, they also said they would be prepared to meet the union. 

It is understood that IMPACT Assistant General Secretary Michael Landers has accepted without preconditions.

As yet it is unclear when discussions might take place and whether they could result in the strike being called off. 

The cabin crew union IMPACT says the current rosters impose excessive hardship and fatigue on staff, and it is seeking rosters similar to those operated for pilots.

However, the company has claimed the changes sought would increase cost and inefficiency, and lead to cabin crew having an extra 32 days of paid leave annually.

In a letter to cabin crew members this afternoon, Aer Lingus Executive for Flight Operations Robert Somers said  establishing the pilots' roster for cabin crew would require a complete separation of long-haul and short-haul flying for cabin crew. 

He says this major change would drive large inefficiencies in its operations, as well as significant increases in costs, which would have to be addressed.

He said measures required could include the establishment of North American bases to service transatlantic flights.  

Mr Somers goes on to warn: "This would lead to the reduction of Irish-based crew numbers by over 300 and would limit Irish bases to short-haul flying only."

He says that when the pilots' roster sought by cabin crew was introduced, pilots had to make significant concessions in return. 

Mr Somers outlines some of the changes they would seek from cabin crew, including the reduction of part-time work, the removal of the five-day fortnight, and less summer leave for staff. 

He states: "Many of the concessions required to achieve a fixed roster pattern for cabin crew may be more unpalatable to you than your current working system."

Mr Somers also outlines the impact of the threatened strike on the company.

He says it has disrupted the travel plans of around 30,000 passengers, and damaged forward bookings for the rest of 2014 due to the uncertainty caused by Impact's strike threats.

He describes the Impact claims as unreasonable and a "self-destructive path", which serves only to further undermine the company and the livelihoods of everyone in it. 

Responding to the letter, IMPACT said that it had no choice but to take industrial action because of the company's refusal to discuss roster changes.

It added that strike action was always an action of last resort and it had been over a decade since there was a stoppage of this kind at the airline.

It said cabin crew believe that service to customers and the relationship with them is being actively undermined by overworking crew at peak periods, while ignoring the potential offered by a more sustainable, better-planned rostering system. 

The union says the strike and continuing uncertainty faced by passengers could have been avoided if Aer Lingus had agreed to a trial run of the roster proposed by cabin crew on short haul services. 

It said that Aer Lingus had been just as resistant to exploring a new roster for pilots, but three years on it was working effectively. 

IMPACT described the company's refusal to engage in constructive dialogue as self- destructive and corrosive. 

There is still no indication of any intervention by the Labour Relations Commission or the Labour Court that could avert Friday's 24-hour stoppage.

Meanwhile, Ryanair has released 1,500 seats for sale on Friday to accommodate passengers disrupted by the Aer Lingus strike.

Pilots union pledges to support AL pilots

The pilots' union IALPA has said pledged to support Aer Lingus pilots who feel they cannot in good conscience operate aircraft during Friday's one-day cabin crew strike.

In a website bulletin, union President Captain Evan Cullen says that it is now very likely that the cabin crew stoppage will go ahead, and that further strike action could take place over the summer. 

He acknowledges that IALPA has not served notice of industrial action, and is not a party to the dispute. 

However, he tells members that if any IALPA member, in good conscience, cannot bring him/herself to operate an Aer Lingus aircraft on the day of the cabin crew strike, then that member will receive the overwhelming support of IALPA in the event that Aer Lingus management take any action against such a member. 

He also points out that the strike is only legally valid in the Republic of Ireland, so staff who commence work on Friday outside Ireland cannot take strike action until they touch down here. 

The bulletin informs members that on Friday cabin crew will be placing a picket at the entrance to the airport, and will hold a march in uniform at 10.30am.

Captain Cullen says IALPA is asking pilots to report for that march in uniform, and reminds members of the support given to pilots during their 2002 strike.