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Wednesday 27 August 2014

Strike will cut cash available for pensions, Aer Lingus boss warns

John Mulligan

Published 25/02/2014 | 02:30

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Interview With Aer Lingus Chief Executive Officer Christoph Mueller...Christoph Mueller, chief executive officer of Aer Lingus Group Plc, speaks during an interview at the Goring hotel in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013. Mueller said Ryanair Holdings Plc's plan to transfer part of the Irish flag carrier's business to Flybe Group Plc as part of a takeover bid can't be taken seriously. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg ...I
Aer Lingus Chief Executive Officer Christoph Mueller

EVERY euro Aer Lingus loses due to strike action will mean a euro less it will be able to deliver to help resolve a damaging pension issue, airline boss Christoph Mueller warned.

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But the prospect of unrest continues to intensify, with SIPTU official Dermot O'Loughlin confirming that its likely threatened strike action is set to impact the St Patrick's Day celebrations.

Despite the union rhetoric, the Aer Lingus chief executive told the Irish Independent that he remained open to the possibility of re-engaging with unions on the amount of money the airline is willing to commit, but only if there were to be even more productivity improvements agreed with staff.

Aer Lingus, Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) and Shannon Airport staff who are members of SIPTU and who are also active members of the defined benefit Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme (IASS) recently voted in favour of strike action amid long-running efforts to address a near €800m deficit at the pension scheme.

"I believe the time where everybody in the process can win the popularity contest is over," said Mr Mueller, adding that a planned strike was "not the right course of action".

"Every euro we're going to lose in industrial action needs to be deducted from what we currently have earmarked to contribute to a solution," he said.

Aer Lingus agreed last year under a Labour Court recommendation to inject €140m into a new defined contribution pension scheme. But that's dependent on the IASS trustee delivering an acceptable funding proposal to the Pensions Board.

That submission will be made shortly.

Siptu has already indicated that it believes the amount agreed last year with Aer Lingus, and the €60m agreed with the DAA, is no longer sufficient. Aer Lingus has insisted it is.

Mr Mueller said that a solution needed to be prepared in the background even as strike action was threatened.

Irish Independent

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