Business Irish

Sunday 21 September 2014

Michael O’Leary: ‘Aer Lingus cabin crew workers are not Siberian salt miners’

Ryanair boss hits out at cabin crew workers looking for work patterns enjoyed by pilots

Ailish O'Hora

Published 30/05/2014 | 10:33

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RYANAIR boss Michael O’Leary has hit out at the "semi-state" mentality at Aer Lingus adding that picketing cabin crew members are not being treated like "Siberian salt miners."

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“These cabin crew workers are not pilots, they don’t do the same job,” he told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny.

“These strikes are threatened three or four times a year, especially at bank holidays and this is effectively holding the public to ransom.”

And he also hit out at the management of Aer Lingus which he said had effectively let the strike go ahead.

“Where is Christoph Mueller today, where is the management?,” asked the airline boss – Ryanair has a 29.9pc stake in Aer Lingus.

Up to 1,000 Aer Lingus passengers face severe disruption today as cabin crews picket the country's main airports.

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.

Bizarre

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.

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