Aer Lingus faces €10m loss as cabin crews picket airports
UP to 1,000 Aer Lingus passengers face severe disruption today as cabin crews picket the country's main airports.
Most of the 28,000 people booked to travel with the national carrier through Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports have already received refunds or rebooked to travel another day.
But the airline revealed there were still 1,000 passengers it could not contact and who may turn up for flights ahead of the bank holiday weekend.
Business groups and politicians have condemned the 24-hour stoppage, which will ground most flights and may cost the airline up to €10m.
However, trade union Impact is expected to hold off on announcing a second strike due to the row over rosters after receiving an 11th-hour invitation to talks next week.
Cabin crews want a fixed-pattern 'five day on, three day off' roster, currently enjoyed by pilots, which they claim is easy to introduce.
But the airline says the roster would be "unworkable" and would mean 300 job losses.
In a letter to Aer Lingus yesterday, Impact accused the airline of taking an "our way or the highway" approach to industrial relations.
The letter, from assistant general secretary Michael Landers to executive for flight operations Robert Somers, said the union made it clear it was available for talks at any time over the last few weeks.
It said this was stated "explicitly" in its notice of industrial action.
The union boss said it refused on at least six occasions over the last two years to have issues referred to the Labour Court, and had not implemented the court or Rights Commissioner recommendations.
Mr Landers said Aer Lingus had backed this up with threats of outsourcing, redundancies and offshoring cabin crew work.
"In these circumstances, can it really be surprising that cabin crew have had to resort to going on strike in order to have these matters addressed?" he asked.
"Needless to say, this is not our preferred option and we would far prefer to carry out our industrial relations agenda in a more co-operative and constructive way".
Aer Lingus claims it would have to divide cabin crew into short-haul and long-haul groups if it conceded to the union's demands, and said applying aviation regulations would mean it would not have enough staff to man flights.
The airline said this was because long-haul staff could not be asked to work on short-haul flights during rest times.
In its letter yesterday, IMPACT dismissed the claim that US cabin crew bases would have to be set up as a "somewhat bizarre conclusion".
The union said fixed pattern rosters are the norm in the aviation industry, while the 'five on, three off' roster is used at Aer Arann and Easyjet.
However, Aer Lingus says the roster arrangements at other airlines differ, depending on whether they fly short haul or long haul, or both.
Talks between Aer Lingus and Impact are expected to begin on Tuesday.