There are fears for the future of up to 250 jobs at Aer Lingus after catering staff were told today that the airline plans to enter into a new partnership with a "dedicated catering provider" from next summer.

However, as yet it is unclear who the new catering partner will be, whether current Aer Lingus personnel  will automatically transfer to that company, whether those staff would retain their existing terms and conditions, or whether they would face redundancy.

Following a meeting this morning, Aer Lingus issued a bulletin to staff outlining the plans to change its catering arrangements.

It states that because of future expansion plans at Dublin Airport, a number of Aer Lingus facilities can no longer be used for their intended purpose - and that the lease arrangements for the catering building and surrounding areas are ending.

The company notes that in the vast majority of airlines, catering is not a directly provided service, and that Aer Lingus is one of the very few airlines directly operating and managing its in-flight catering.

It states: "In this context, Aer Lingus intends to partner with a dedicated catering provider to develop a new off-site facility that will provide a best in class catering solution for our growing operation in Dublin Airport".

It plans to open the new facility in the summer of 2020, where the same number of jobs will be required as at the current operation.

The Aer Lingus document acknowledges that this is a "significant announcement" for staff, adding that the airline is committed to speaking further to staff over the next few weeks about what the changes will mean for them.

SIPTU Aviation Sector Organiser Neil McGowan described the situation as "a very worrying development", which would leave members very concerned.

He said SIPTU's position on outsourcing was well known to Aer Lingus, adding that he was putting the airline on notice that the union will seek to maintain direct employment on at least existing terms and conditions for all members in the catering department.

He said SIPTU needed to engage immediately with management to hear full details of their plans.