Aer Lingus accused of bogus €5m job cut claim
Published 12/11/2010 | 05:00
AER Lingus is trying to claim €5m from the taxpayer for what has been described as a "bogus redundancy scheme".
The former state airline made more than 1,000 workers redundant two years ago -- then rehired 715 of them on reduced terms and conditions.
It submitted a €5m claim to the Department of Enterprise, seeking to recover 60pc of the cost of the redundancy packages, which ranged from €30,000 to €140,000 per member of staff.
The size of the claim for the airline's "leave and return scheme" had not been disclosed until now.
At the Dail's Public Accounts Committee, Department of Enterprise secretary-general Sean Gorman said that two years on, no final decision had yet been made on whether Aer Lingus would be paid.
"It's a complex area," he added.
But the committee chairman, Fine Gael TD Bernard Allen, said it would be unfair if the taxpayer had to pay for what appeared to be a "bogus redundancy scheme" by Aer Lingus.
"If they (Aer Lingus) want to do that, they should do it from their own resources," he said.
The company has said it remains convinced that the 715 staff departures were legitimate redundancies under the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967-2007.
The state-owned Dublin Airport Authority has sought a similar redundancy repayment deal for 350 staff transferring from Terminal One to the new Terminal Two. No decision has been made in that case either.
The number of redundancy claims has tripled over the past three years, from around 25,000 in 2007 to 77,000 last year.
Mr Gorman said extra staff had been assigned to bring down the waiting times for payment of the claims from nine months to six months.
But Mr Gorman sounded an optimistic note by saying there was a "strong pipeline" of foreign direct-investment projects being worked on by the IDA.
"Investors are continuing to come here and existing multi-nationals are continuing to expand," he said.
The committee also heard the State is owed €183m in redundancy repayments by companies which have gone into liquidation or receivership.
Last year, the Department of Enterprise wrote off a redundancy debt of €1.9m owed by the former Clover Meats company. The company, which was famous for its sausages and once employed 600 workers in Wexford, Limerick and Dublin, went out of business in 1984.