Sunday 24 September 2017

Biggest union at Aer Lingus says 'nothing new' from IAG

Willie Walsh, chief executive of International Airlines Group, speaking to journalists as he left Leinster House last week after his meeting with the Oireachtas Committee on Transport. Photo: Frank McGrath
Willie Walsh, chief executive of International Airlines Group, speaking to journalists as he left Leinster House last week after his meeting with the Oireachtas Committee on Transport. Photo: Frank McGrath
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

IAG's planned €1.4bn takeover of Aer Lingus has hit fresh turbulence after the head of the airline's biggest union said Willie Walsh has offered "nothing new".

Matt Staunton, the national secretary of the biggest union at Aer Lingus - Impact - told the Irish Independent that a similar plan by Mr Walsh, the chief executive of IAG, to add 500 jobs at the airline had been unveiled by Aer Lingus executives last September.

"IAG isn't bringing anything to the party," Mr Staunton insisted. "I presume he does have something to bring to the party, but he hasn't told us what it is."

Mr Staunton's comments are certain to anger IAG, which has tried to accommodate meetings with unions to maintain constructive dialogue as it pushes its agenda to buy Aer Lingus.

The reaction by the union also makes IAG's job of trying to secure the takeover even more difficult.

Trade union officials from Impact, Siptu and the TEEU met senior Aer Lingus and IAG executives yesterday. Newly appointed Aer Lingus chief executive Stephen Kavanagh was also there to persuade unions that an IAG takeover would be good for the airline.

The meeting, which lasted almost two hours, was solely an "exchange of positions", rather than a negotiating engagement, according to sources. It was attended by union heavyweights, including Siptu president Jack O'Connor and Impact general secretary, Shay Cody.

But information given to the unions by the airlines is understood not to have included anything that was not already in the public domain. It's believed it did not involve the exchange of sensitive information that's been handed by IAG to the Government-appointed review group.

That has left unions unsure how they can progress talks. More information about IAG's plans for Aer Lingus can't be put in the public domain until IAG makes a formal offer for the Irish airline.

Impact shop stewards at Aer Lingus will be briefed about the meeting today, while Siptu shop stewards will be updated tomorrow. They'll then brief staff.

Union representatives will now press Mr Kavanagh at a meeting on Thursday morning at Dublin Airport for more details and assurances about the planned takeover.

The meeting between unions and airline executives yesterday also came the day after Myles Worth, the secretary of the Aer Lingus Central Representative Council (CRC), comprised of unions at the airline, hinting that employees were favourably disposed towards an IAG takeover.

The CRC issued a statement saying Mr Worth had been speaking in a personal capacity.

There will be intense interest in how Aer Lingus performed last year, with the release of its financial results for 2014 this morning.

The airline is expected to report that it made an operating profit of around €75m last year, up from the €61.1m it made in 2013.

Irish Independent

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