Business Irish

Thursday 13 December 2018

Aer Lingus workers hit by US move vote to reject exit deal

Guest relations ballot comes against backdrop of new productivity talks

Airline says it has ‘no plans’ to outsource its ground-handling operations despite IAG move
Airline says it has ‘no plans’ to outsource its ground-handling operations despite IAG move

Fearghal O'Connor

Complaints staff at Aer Lingus who face having their jobs moved to America have voted to reject a compromise plan drawn up by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

The airline informed its guest relations department before Christmas that it planned to move the entire function to a new US-based Aer Lingus guest relations hub by the end of this month.

About 20 staff are affected by the decision but staff and unions had expressed concern that the plan was a move towards outsourcing small sections of the airline's ground-handling operation - something that the airline has rejected.

After the announcement, trade union officials told management that the manner in which the Dublin-based jobs were to be eliminated was "unprecedented" in the airline's history.

Both sides attended the WRC earlier this month. It issued a recommendation providing for improved exit terms for staff, which Aer Lingus said it was prepared to accept. But more than 75pc of staff who voted rejected the recommendation.

It comes against the backdrop of a new round of productivity talks at the airline, which had stalled briefly but are set to resume this Thursday.

"We are currently engaged in discussions locally with a number of groups throughout our business on measures to increase productivity," said an airline spokesman. "In one area of the business, where progress has not been made on matters of productivity, we have referred the matter to the WRC for conciliation," he said.

Meanwhile, global airport handling company Menzies Aviation is to enter the ground operations business at Dublin to handle all of Aer Lingus parent company IAG's traffic at the airport except for Aer Lingus. This will see it carry out ground handling functions for BA, Iberia and Vueling.

Menzies is advertising for customer service and ramp agents in Dublin. The arrival of the giant handling firm has sparked speculation at the airport that Menzies will ultimately look to also take on elements of the Aer Lingus ground operation.

But when IAG bought Aer Lingus it made a commitment that it would not introduce that level of outsourcing at the airline despite previous proposals to do so at Aer Lingus.

Asked had the position on outsourcing changed with the arrival of Menzies, the Aer Lingus spokesman said: "Aer Lingus has no plans to outsource its catering or ground-handling departments to Menzies or anybody else."

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