Wednesday 26 October 2016

Labour and unions on guard as sale of Aer Lingus looms

John Mulligan and John Downing

Published 04/05/2015 | 02:30

British Airways owner IAG has offered to pay €1.36bn to buy the State’s stake in Aer Lingus
British Airways owner IAG has offered to pay €1.36bn to buy the State’s stake in Aer Lingus
Paschal Donohoe

The largest union at Aer Lingus says it hasn't been consulted by the Government or its advisory committee amid speculation that a sale of the airline has been agreed.

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And Labour TDs also strongly warned that they had not yet heard any reassurance on their key concerns.

Trade unions Impact and Siptu both said there has been no recent talks between it and the Government, and that it remains opposed to the sale of Aer Lingus based on the commitments that have been given to date by British Airways owner IAG.

IAG has offered to py €1.36bn to buy Aer Lingus, but wants the Government and Ryanair to agree to sell their stakes in the airline prior to launching a formal takeover bid.

The Government controls 25.1pc of Aer Lingus, while Ryanair owns close to 30pc of its smaller rival.

Trade unions including Siptu and Impact have insisted that they must be consulted on a final report being prepared by a Government steering group, and in advance of any decision being made public by the Government.

A Department of Transport spokesman insisted yesterday that Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe has not yet received a report being prepared by the inter-departmental steering group that will advise the Government on whether or not it should sell its stake.

It follows reports at the weekend that suggested Mr Donohoe had already received the report, and that both he and Finance Minister Michael Noonan have agreed to the Aer Lingus sale.

But Impact national secretary Matt Staunton claimed the reports are "way off the mark".

Labour TDs also warned they had no reassurance from the Transport Minister on concerns about job security; connectivity to Dublin, Cork and Shannon; and Heathrow slots. They said "no sale will happen without these reassurances".

Former junior minister Joe Costello said the grouping of eight TDs, who first raised these concerns last February, had got the endorsement of the entire Labour membership at their party conference in Killarney for their stance. That now made it Labour policy.

"Nothing has changed for us and we need these vital concerns to be addressed," he said.

"Any sale would have to be endorsed in a Dáil vote and Labour's concerns must be addressed before all of us can troop in and vote for any sale," Mr Costello added.

The seven others who took the initiative with Deputy Costello, were Clare TD Michael McNamara; Eamonn Maloney, Dublin South-West; Sean Kenny, Dublin North-East; Dominic Hannigan, Meath East; Brendan Ryan, Dublin North; Robert Dowds, Dublin Mid-West; and John Lyons, Dublin North-West.

It is also understood that the proposed Aer Lingus sale is still not on the agenda for the Government's Cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Despite that, a decision is almost certain to be imminent.

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said last week that he expects a decision to be made within two weeks.

On Friday, Aer Lingus chairman Colm Barrington told the Irish Independent that the potential sales process had been dragged on for longer than necessary. He said that had created uncertainty for management and staff at the airline.

The future of Aer Lingus has been unclear since December, when IAG first indicated that it wanted to buy the carrier.

Mr Walsh wants to use Aer Lingus to expand IAG's transatlantic capacity, using Dublin as a hub to capture more passenger traffic from the UK and elsewhere to North America.

Irish Independent

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