Fórsa, the union representing staff at Aer Lingus, has described "unilateral action" by the airline to move ahead with cutting the pay and working hours of staff to 30% of pre-Covid-19 pandemic levels as "heavy-handed and unnecessary."

The comments were made by Niall Shanahan, the communications officer for the union, on RTÉ's Drivetime after a management deadline to accept the reforms passed.

Mr Shanahan said the ballot papers were sent to members yesterday at 4pm, and at 6pm the deal was "withdrawn".

But he said the result of a ballot will be known by Monday 22nd June, "and we will communicate the result".

Mr Shanahan said Aer Lingus is "running the risk of permanent damage to relationships by behaving as they have done over the last 24 hours."  

He outlined that a draft agreement was drawn up since Aer Lingus threatened unilateral action a month ago.

"A draft agreement was developed by last Friday and on Saturday cabin crew met and made the decision that they would ballot members on this," he stated.

"The agreement takes staff out to February 2022."

"At 6pm yesterday we were informed that the company were taking that agreement off the table and were acting unilaterally as they had threatened to do a month ago.  It was heavy-handed and unnecessary."

"It is entirely reasonable given the scale and cuts that would run for two years that you afford some respect and autonomy who work as cabin crew staff to ballot them."

Earlier SIPTU, which also represents staff at the airline, described the Aer Lingus decision to withdraw the proposals as unacceptable and said more time should have been given to the unions to process any proposed documents in the normal way.

"The company had been very clear with the Congress Group of Unions that the timeline we were working to would not provide for the traditional amounts of time usually taken when dealing with such matters," said SIPTU Divisional Organiser, Karan O'Loughlin.

"It now appears that this time line was arbitrary and artificial given that the pilots are being treated much more fairly than the grades represented by the Congress Group of Unions."

"Consequently we are now writing to the company to demand that it cease its immediate course of action and that, at a minimum, holds pay levels at the current rate and not effect any layoffs."