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Thursday 21 August 2014

Aer Lingus strike row intensifies as Varadkar enters fray

Minister suggest LRC or Labour Court as means to end

Ailish O'Hora

Published 07/06/2014 | 16:45

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Transport Minister Leo Varadkar addresses the media at the Restaurant Symposium Food for Growth in the Sherbourne Hotel

TRANSPORT Minister Leo Varadkar has entered into the Aer Lingus strike row today suggesting both sides should use third party industrial relation mechanisms to resolve the stand-off.

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More misery looms for air passengers as the union representing Aer Lingus cabin crew has threatened to hold two further strikes following the June bank holiday disruption.

Aer Lingus cabin crew are looking for similar terms and conditions to those of pilots.

"The possibility of further industrial action at Aer Lingus is a matter of grave concern," Mr Varadkar said today.

"The State's industrial relations machinery remains available to both sides and should be utilised, if direct negotiations have proved unsuccessful.

"This dispute can and will only be resolved through negotiation."

Aer Lingus said today that it would at first prefer to use an "internal dispute resolution mechanism for all disputes."

"We have had direct discussions with Cabin Crew's representatives on the 5:3:5:3 roster issue but Impact have issued two days of additional industrial action," a spokesman said.

"We don't understand this.

"Therefore in this instance, we would welcome the assistance of any third party who can:establish the facts and then direct the parties in a neutral manner to jointly undertake the analysis required to resolve the issue."

Trade union IMPACT said it is to issue Aer Lingus management with notice of two one-day strikes on Monday, June 16 and Wednesday, June 18 after talks broke down yesterday over the issue of rosters.

The union said management had issued a "take-it-or-leave it" proposal in the long-running dispute over proposed roster changes, which it said management knew would be unacceptable to staff.

Up to 30,000 passengers were affected on Friday, May 28 when cabin crew members held a one-day strike.

It has emerged that up to 400 cabin crew who were rostered to work on the day of the strike had their cheaper travel privileges withdrawn, rather than the 1,250 IMPACT members who took part in the strike as initially reported.

The dispute is over proposed roster changes. Cabin crews are demanding a fixed 'five days on, three days off' roster which Aer Lingus pilots currently enjoy. But the airline says such a system is unworkable and would result in over 300 job losses.

IMPACT spokesman Michael Landers said the union had been willing to continue talks with management over the weekend, but that management had "walked away".

He said management's only proposals in three days of talks would require staff who currently fly short and long haul flights to be rostered solely for one or the other.

Mr Landers said this would make the crewing of transatlantic flights from Ireland unviable. He said the "unacceptable take-it-or-leave-it proposal", would "inevitably lead to hundreds of Irish jobs being exported to the USA."

He added that management negotiators blankly refused to test a 5:3 roster across long and short-haul flights.

Current rosters mean cabin crew can work up to 60 hours in a seven-day period, resulting in shift patterns of six working days and one rest day, followed by six more working days.

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