Aer Lingus pilots to hold key meeting over arbitrator findings
AER LINGUS management and its pilots could be headed for further difficulties if the cost-savings detailed last week by an arbitration panel aren't entirely accepted by either side.
A majority of the airline's 470 pilots are due to meet this evening in order to discuss the findings of the arbitration report, which was published by the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) following last-ditch negotiations before Christmas between Aer Lingus management and representatives of the pilots.
The panel was chaired by LRC chief executive Kieran Mulvey. Mr Mulvey has suggested ways in which €30m in annual savings could be achieved among the pilot base, which would include redundancy being offered to 50 of the highest-paid captains. A 10pc pay cut is also proposed as well as some changes to work practices.
The moves are part of a wider plan by Aer Lingus to save €97m a year. Yesterday, Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller told staff that the "nature of any arbitration is that it can be exacting on both parties and will often rely on compromise".
In a circular, he added that the proposals put forward by Mr Mulvey, coupled with other agreements the airline says it has achieved with cabin and ground crew as well as administrative staff, "represents a sound basis for the future of our company".
Mr Mulvey proposed that a €30m incentive fund be established by the airline in order to reward all its staff if the airline returns to profitability within the five-year timeframe of its current transformation plan.
However, Mr Mulvey also addressed some issues regarding the pilot's pension arrangements and expressed some thoughts on its structure. The pension scheme is carrying a significant deficit
While some negotiated tweaking of Mr Mulvey's proposals by pilots and Aer Lingus management was always likely, any attempts to fundamentally alter its contents by either party could result in further tensions.
Mr Mueller told staff yesterday that management "understand and appreciate the personal sacrifices that employees are being asked to make". He added that the outcome of the arbitration panel meant staff could "now move on together as a leaner, fitter company, in a better position to cope with tougher times".