Aer Lingus agrees to talks in cabin crew roster row
Published 28/01/2011 | 05:00
The first hopes of a resolution to the bitter Aer Lingus dispute came last night when the airline and the cabin crew's union IMPACT finally agreed to talks.
But flight cancellations will continue today despite the bid to end the dispute which so far has affected more than 5,000 passengers.
Talks are due to take place this morning in a bid to resolve the row over new cabin-crew rosters that increase crew flying time to 16 hours a week.
If there is no deal, at least 12 flights will continue to be cancelled each day. More than 70 have been pulled over the last two weeks.
The breakthrough came yesterday when the airline agreed to enter talks following an invitation from the most senior union and employer bodies.
It had vowed since the start of the dispute not to ask a third party mediator to intervene as it had already attended over 15 months of talks.
IMPACT asked the Labour Court to step in a week ago.
In a statement, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions' general secretary David Begg and IBEC director Brendan McGinty said they had decided to issue the invitation "in view of the serious nature of the dispute".
They said senior officials on both sides would brief them today on the roster issue "with a view to seeing if any assistance can be offered towards finding a resolution".
Mr Begg and Mr McGinty are expected to refer the dispute to mediators at the Labour Relations Commission.
Aer Lingus said it had accepted the invitation, but warned it is still committed to the implementation of its €97m cost-cutting 'Greenfield' plan.
IMPACT welcomed the invitation and said it was "ready to engage in the process as soon as it could be convened".
The intervention came as another 18 flights -- to European destinations and one transatlantic round trip -- were cancelled yesterday.
Aer Lingus said passengers were accommodated on other flights and had been warned in advance.
The airline began to cancel flights last Monday week when cabin crew refused to work new rosters that increase their time in the air from 830 hours to 850 hours a year.
It has struck over 200 cabin crew off the payroll and threatened to sack them if they do not accept the rosters.
Aer Lingus believes the increase in hours is the cabin crew's main objection despite their agreement to fly for 850 hours in a ballot last year.
IMPACT has highlighted changes to rosters including meal breaks, double shifts and cuts in 'rest time' between flights as major objections.
However, Aer Lingus has said there is very little change on many of these issues, including allowances for flight delays when staff report for duty.
IMPACT said the entitlement to eight days off a month had been cut to seven, but the airline said the crew still get 16 days off every two months.
Both sides contradict each other on some issues, including meal breaks, with the union claiming they have been axed on European flights, which the airline denies.