Aer Lingus and unions far apart on pensions, says LRC
AER Lingus management and unions have adopted "trenchant and diametrically opposed" positions on a core proposal to solve a major pensions dispute.
That is the conclusion of Labour Relations Commission (LRC) chief executive Kieran Mulvey in a special report that he has sent to the airline and unions. He hopes that it will advance negotiations aimed at tackling a massive €750m deficit at the Irish Aviation Superannuation Scheme (IASS).
The pension scheme serves roughly 14,000 former and current workers at Aer Lingus, the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) and the former Irish arm of aircraft maintenance firm SRT.
Unless that funding gap is addressed, thousands of current workers would have their future retirement benefits dramatically cut.
Aer Lingus has offered to provide as much as €100m in funds to help transition its staff to a new, defined-contribution scheme.
But in order to persuade shareholders to approve such a deal, the airline is still insisting that its staff sign up to a new 'stabilisation' agreement that would include measures aimed at curtailing its wage bill.
Proposals for those so-called stabilisation offsets have angered unions, who continue to oppose them.
It also prompted SIPTU to issue Aer Lingus with notice of a work stoppage, which was called off earlier this month after employers' group IBEC and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions urged Mr Mulvey to outline how he believed the impasse could be resolved.
SIPTU said it would re-engage with a so-called technical group and the LRC in an effort to find a solution.
In his report to the airline and unions, Mr Mulvey acknowledged that there was some common ground between the two sides in terms of solving the crisis.
But he said the issue of stabilisation, as put forward by Aer Lingus, remained a major hurdle. He suggested that the two sides could take a "neutral" position to take a fresh look at the issue.
Aer Lingus said it had received Mr Mulvey's report and was considering it. Separate talks have been progressing between unions and the DAA.