400 jobs to go as LTAI plant closes
Published 20/12/2013 | 11:32
A leading aircraft maintenance company has confirmed it is to close one of its engine repair plants with the loss of more than 400 jobs.
Lufthansa Technik Airmotive Ireland (LTAI) had been in talks with unions for several weeks after announcing plans to shut its facility in Rathcoole, Co Dublin.
The company confirmed today that, due to falling business and fewer international market opportunities, it would close the factory.
Some 411 workers are being laid off.
In a statement, LTAI said it had been considering an offer to sell the business.
"An offer from an outside party to take over the facility did not lead to any acceptable offer. Negotiations with the three trade unions and employee representatives failed to identify any viable alternatives or to reach agreement on severance terms," the management said.
Employees have been offered a statutory redundancy package.
In November staff at the plant were informed that it was to close and negotiations were opened with Siptu, Unite and the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU).
A Labour Court hearing is expected to decide on ex-gratia redundancy terms and proposals to deal with a 10 million euro pension fund deficit.
The Rathcoole plant - set up by Aer Lingus in 1980 with Lufthansa Technik taking a 60% shareholding in 1997 and full ownership in 1999 - specialised in the repair and overhaul of several engine types.
Union leader Arthur Hall condemned the decision by the firm to issue notice this morning, claiming the company would not dare treat their German employees the same way.
Mr Hall said the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) was in the middle of talks with local management at the Labour Court and heard the news during a brief recess.
"There was no prior consultation whatsoever," he said.
Mr Hall said the job cuts will have major adverse implications for workers at the plant, many of whom have been employed for more than 17 years.
"These are highly skilled craft workers but because those skills are specialised it is extremely unlikely that they will find employment again in Ireland," he added.
"This is the worst news these 410 employees and their families could receive at Christmas time."
Mr Hall also accused Lufthansa Technik Airmotive in Germany of reneging on a commitment secured in earlier negotiations to provide workers with six weeks' pay per year of service, instead offering statutory redundancy, plus four weeks' pay per year of service, and a cap on lump sums of two years' salary.
The Labour Court later issued a ruling urging the employees to accept a redundancy offer which is lower than the offer originally made to them several weeks ago.
"We are going backwards not forwards," Mr Hall said.
The trade union representative said workers with more than 16 years' service will be worst affected as their redundancy pay-off will effectively be capped.
"They, the company, have timed this to a tee. The factory shut its doors at 4pm today and no-one is back until January 2," he said.
The redundancy deal being offered is statutory redundancy, plus four weeks per year of service, but capped at two years' pay.
Mr Hall said the offer showed a lack of concern from the company for long-serving workers or the local community.
"Most of the 411 workers are leaving the plant for the last time tonight and will have to break the bad news to their families just five days before Christmas," he said.
"It is indicative of the very stern, unrelenting approach taken by the parent company management in Germany that they took a better offer negotiated by local management off the table on December 6 and refused to reinstate it today at the Labour Court."
Mr Hall also condemned the company for issuing redundancy notices while talks took place on the package.