Aer Lingus faces disruption after threat to cabin crew
Published 15/01/2011 | 05:00
AER Lingus may face disruptive industrial action next week after threatening to strike cabin crew off the payroll.
A long-running row has erupted again after management warned it would take drastic action, if the staff refused to work new rosters from Monday.
In a hardline letter to staff, Aer Lingus Director of Staff Relations Sean Murphy warned that a continued refusal to work the rosters would "result in you being put off duty and removed from the payroll".
Last night, IMPACT retaliated and warned there would be disruption if Aer Lingus "insists" in putting its members off their duties.
The 1,300 cabin crew have been engaged in low-key industrial action over the last 14 weeks over previous changes made to rosters, although this has not disrupted flights.
However, Aer Lingus said the ongoing action had gradually escalated and was now putting "significant pressure on the operation" especially during the severe Christmas weather conditions.
It accused the union of issuing weekly directions to cabin crew in recent months to ramp up the action.
Last night, it said members of staff who do not cooperate with new rosters -- made available to them over a week ago -- would be sent home and would not be paid from Monday.
"Having endured 14 weeks of industrial action, Aer Lingus will no longer tolerate the manner in which IMPACT has behaved throughout this saga and will no longer tolerate circumstances in which cabin crew will not work their contracted hours/rosters," said a spokesperson.
The airline said the industrial action, which spanned the difficult weather conditions over Christmas, had put significant pressure on it.
Aer Lingus also accused the union of forcing cabin crew who were willing to work the new rosters into a position in which they had to refuse to do so.
IMPACT denied these claims, and said the cabin crew had signed up to the airline's €97m cost-cutting Greenfield Plan, which has also been accepted by all other groups of staff.
The plan means their flying hours increase to 850 a year.
It added that, under this plan, agreement on the new rosters should be brokered by binding arbitration at the Labour Relations Commission, and not by "management diktat".
In a strongly-worded letter to management, IMPACT national secretary Matt Staunton described the Aer Lingus threat as "reprehensible, though by no means out of character".
He insisted that no LRC recommendation contained the changes management wanted to impose to add an extra 30 hours to the existing hours worked per year.
The union official said its industrial action campaign was legal under industrial relations legislation and would continue until the dispute was resolved.
But fears are mounting that the dispute could escalate if management takes drastic action against staff.
The threat of disruption grew yesterday as both sides failed to reach agreement at talks at the Labour Relations Commission.
"If Aer Lingus insists in putting them (staff) off their duties that will cause disruption," said Mr Staunton.