It's become impossible to separate truth from spin
Published 22/01/2011 | 05:00
AER Lingus is done talking.
Its negotiators are hoarse after 15 months of discussing the minutiae of cabin crew rosters with IMPACT, and have exhausted the services of practically every industrial relations mechanism in the country.
Long-struggling Aer Lingus wants its cabin crew to increase the amount of time they spend in the air from an average of just over 700 hours to 850 hours a year as part of its €97m cost-cutting plan.
Its cabin crew finally said yes to this -- by a 93pc majority -- last March, after the company threatened compulsory redundancy.
But they do not like how it is being done. They have issues with changes to their rosters to bring about these extra hours.
These include new meal break arrangements and double shifts, where staff work on flights to and from a destination twice in a day.
When the rosters first became an issue last year, Labour Relations Commission chief executive Kieran Mulvey stepped in and produced a complex tone on how they could operate. Again, it appeared everyone was on board.
But then the crew began work-to-rule action and refused to co-operate with the rosters. Until this week the industrial action fell below the radar because it had no impact on flights.
It is almost impossible to separate the truth from the spin about the roster changes the union claims are draconian and anti-family and the airline says are standard international practice.
The union complains that duties can be changed by three hours on the day of duty, creating a nightmare for those with children and caring responsibilities.
The airline admitted this could happen in the event of disruption or staff illnesses, but argued the practice was in line with standards across the aviation industry.
On the issue of meal breaks, the union says all breaks have been removed from European flights; this means cabin crew can work shifts of up to 11 hours with no food. The airline denies this and says it requires them to take staggered breaks.
This week, Aer Lingus took matters into its own hands. It began striking cabin crew who refused to co-operate off the payroll on Monday.
The man at the helm, Christoph 'the axeman' Mueller -- famous for facing down unions at the now-bust Belgian airline Sabena -- told them there were two ways of looking at the rosters: his way or the highway.