Aer Lingus cabin crew are to be balloted on the terms of a recovery plan for the airline which would involve work practice reforms and ongoing reductions in pay and hours until the aviation sector recovers from the Covid-19 emergency.
If the terms are accepted planned lay-offs, including at Shannon, and further pay cuts to 30% of normal salary will be averted.
When RTÉ News revealed the terms of the final proposals last night, union sources suggested that the proposals would not have to be put to a ballot, as they involved changes that were already encompassed by existing collective agreements.
However following a meeting of the Cabin Crew Branch Committee, Fórsa said it would be balloting cabin crew on what it called "...management's proposals for sweeping change to working conditions."
While Fórsa will put the recovery plan to a ballot without a recommendation for or against it, a union spokesperson said "...we will make it clear that the alternative to this package is lay-offs and further reductions in pay."
In this evening's statement, Fórsa said the scope of the proposals, "...which are effectively an alternative to lay-offs and a further significant pay cut to 30% of pre-coronavirus rates", meant that it could not be accepted on behalf of workers without a ballot.
A union spokesperson said the branch committee had arrived at the "reasonable" conclusion that it did not have the authority to accept changes of this scale without consulting the individuals who would have to live with the decision.
"In particular, there was a strong feeling that it was neither right nor safe to accept a proposal that requires individuals to take on significant long-term debt to the company in the form of paying back wages received for shifts not worked over a substantial time period without the consent of the people concerned," he said.
The spokesperson said the union fully understood the intense pressure bearing down on the company and its staff, and that the ballot will be completed over "the next few days", though precise arrangements for the ballot are still being made.
Fórsa acknowledged that Ireland as a small nation was highly dependent on trade, travel tourism and international connectivity.
He noted that the aviation industry was now enduring the biggest crisis of a lifetime, and called on the government to act to ensure that Ireland has an aviation industry when the crisis is over.
Menawhile, SIPTU has also been briefing its members on the plan.
A well-place union source said the situation was "fluid" with consultations still under way until tomorrow.