Thousands face more misery in Aer Lingus strike deadlock
WORKERS who took to the picket line outside Aer Lingus offices say they had "no choice" but to strike.
The row between the airline and its cabin crew is no closer to a resolution after a day when 28,000 travellers were discommoded.
And last night the Impact trade union warned more strikes were "inevitable" if the current system of rosters for Aer Lingus workers was not changed.
Around 200 flights were grounded yesterday with severe disruption for passengers affected as a result of the 24-hour industrial action by the airline's cabin crew staff across the country's three main airports.
The long-running dispute between management and staff is over proposed roster changes. Cabin crews are demanding a fixed pattern '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 more than 300 job losses.
Workers placed pickets at Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports and also marched to the company's headquarters in Dublin Airport where they presented a letter addressed to Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller.
"Today, we're engaged in this industrial action because our experience has been that our employer won't listen to us. For three years we have raised concerns about the erratic nature of our rosters," the letter states.
"The fixed roster pattern we're proposing will also allow for cabin crew to keep within the EU regulations on duty and block hours, without any necessity for standing crew down for long periods when those limits are reached."
Last night, a spokesperson for Impact told the Irish Independent that workers had opted to strike "with great regret".
He said the union was treating next week's meeting with the airline with "cautious optimism" but warned there would be more strike action if management did not show "serious intent" to address cabin crew concerns.
"Workers aren't looking for additional time off. They're looking to work the same hours but in a more sustainable way," Impact's Niall Shanahan said.
"If it gets to a point where the company just cannot move beyond where they are now, further industrial action will be inevitable."
Staff picketing in Dublin yesterday said they had "no choice" as the airline had refused to discuss the matter.
"We know the public won't be very happy with this but we're not out here for any other reason than we simply have to," Michela Moloney said.
Ruth Kennedy, who has been on maternity leave for the past year, said it was only due to the flexibility of her colleagues that she was able to get the time off.
"If we don't get improved rosters I will find it impossible to find someone to mind my daughter Sophie. I had her 17 weeks premature and everyone was so accommodating in covering for me but the rosters made things very difficult. There needs to be a change," she said.
Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary, whose company is the biggest shareholder in Aer Lingus, hit out at the "semi-state" mentality at Aer Lingus, adding that picketing cabin crew members staff were not being treated like "Siberian salt miners".
"These cabin crew workers are not pilots, they don't do the same job," he told Newstalk's Pat Kenny. "These strikes are threatened three or four times a year... holding the public to ransom."
Aer Lingus said the action was "unwarranted and an extremely unfair imposition on the travelling public".
Business groups and politicians also condemned the decision to strike, which is estimated to have cost Aer Lingus up to €10m.