Saturday 23 September 2017

IAG boss Walsh to meet with unions over Aer Lingus bid

Stephen Kavanagh
Stephen Kavanagh
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Aer Lingus unions want assurances from IAG boss Willie Walsh on a range of issues from employment agreements to outsourcing, as the airline boss continues his effort to buy the Irish carrier in a €1.4bn deal.

The fact that Mr Walsh is flying to Dublin next week to meet unions is hugely significant.

Earlier this week, Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe raised the bar for a successful bid by demanding further concessions from IAG. The Government controls 25.1pc of Aer Lingus.

It had been speculated that the additional demands could even have been enough to turn IAG off its takeover plan.

A group of Labour TDs will also table a motion at the party's conference this weekend demanding that the Government reject the approach unless specific employment assurances can be secured from IAG.

But Mr Walsh and new Aer Lingus chief executive Stephen Kavanagh will meet union representatives next Friday to thrash out further details on the planned buyout.

Mr Kavanagh met representatives from the Aer Lingus Central Representative Council (CRC) yesterday.

That meeting was attended by about 20 officials, including CRC president Evan Cullen, who's also the head of pilots' union IALPA; Matt Staunton, the national secretary with trade union Impact; and Owen Reidy, a divisional organiser with Siptu. Michael Landers, an assistant general secretary with Impact, was also present.

Impact is the biggest union at Aer Lingus, representing almost half of its roughly 3,600 staff. Its members include cabin crew, pilots and office staff.

A number of concerns were raised at yesterday's meeting between the CRC and Mr Kavanagh.

Unions, and Siptu in particular, want assurances from IAG that it does not intend to outsource activities, for instance. That's something Mr Walsh has previously indicated he does not intend to do.

The unions also want a pledge from IAG that it would honour all existing employment agreements, and that IAG does not intend to use bases outside Ireland for Aer Lingus activities.

IAG releases its financial results for 2014 this morning. Investors will be keen to hear Mr Walsh's plans for continuing his pursuit of Aer Lingus.

Opportunity

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Staunton said that he does not see next Friday's meeting with Mr Walsh as a negotiating opportunity.

"We want to know exactly what the plans are. Then we can get into assurances," he said.

Mr Staunton added that he expected Mr Walsh to come to the meeting prepared to divulge significant information.

"It's what he should have done from the start," he said.

Mr Walsh engaged in a media and political blitz recently in his attempt to persuade stakeholders that an IAG takeover of Aer Lingus would see the Irish airline grow significantly in the coming years.

He has offered to create 635 net new jobs at the airline by 2020.

Aer Lingus and unions will also be at the Labour Court this morning as the two sides try to come to an agreement in relation to rosters and other conditions for cabin crew for the upcoming summer season.

A dispute over rosters last year led to industrial action that cost the airline about €10m in lost business. The Labour Court has already had submissions from both sides. It's not expected to issue a recommendation until a later date, however.

Irish Independent

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