Airline to axe 230 cabin staff who voted down cuts
No sweetheart deal, warns Aer Lingus chief
Published 10/03/2010 | 05:00
AER Lingus faces a strike threat after announcing plans to axe 230 cabin crew for refusing to back a €97m survival plan.
The airline's chief executive Christoph Mueller took a hardline yesterday, stating there would be "no sweetheart deal" with cabin crew who rejected cost-cutting plans.
After an emergency board meeting, Mr Mueller revealed that he would impose compulsory redundancies on the IMPACT trade union members.
He will also push ahead with over 400 voluntary redundancies, pay cuts of up to 10pc and a three-year wage freeze as part of the plan to slash €74m from staff costs at the airline.
The job-loss announcement is far less severe than his original threat to impose up to 1,100 job cuts without union agreement.
Mr Mueller said he did not act on this threat as it would be unfair to penalise staff who had accepted the proposals.
He noted that the majority of workers backed the cost-cutting plan and he would single out the only one of the five staff groups to reject the deal.
The number of compulsory redundancies to be imposed is the same as the number of voluntary job losses the cabin crew would have suffered if they had accepted the deal.
However, a small number of SIPTU cabin crew who accepted the proposal will not face compulsory redundancy.
Mr Mueller adopted a hardline stance at a press launch yesterday to announce the redundancies.
"One thing is for sure, there will be no sweetheart deal with cabin crew," he warned. "That is my understanding of fairness.
"Someone who votes 'No' to a proposition should not get an easier way out than the ones who have voted in favour."
However, he stressed: "Retaliation is not our business."
When asked if he feared other unions might support cabin crew in the event of a strike, he said he did not believe there was an appetite for industrial action.
"I believe the last thing in the majority of people's minds is industrial action," he said.
IMPACT said it was not "surprised" by the job losses as the threat of compulsory redundancies was "made repeatedly" during talks at the Labour Relations Commission, and during the ballot.
Although the pay cut does not apply to cabin crew earning under €45,000, the union said the plan was rejected because it came after a succession of cost-cutting plans, including the last one, which raised €15m.
The union said it would meet management today and then consult members at Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports, although time to find a solution was "extremely limited".
"The latest developments present a very serious challenge to cabin crew workers. However, the union will continue to make efforts to secure jobs and working conditions," it said.
Four other staff groups in the workforce of over 3,000 backed the plan, including pilots, middle management, ground handling staff, support and maintenance staff and craft workers.
Aer Lingus said it gratefully acknowledged the support of four of the five union groups that balloted on the cost-cutting plan, known as the 'Greenfield' programme.