Monday 23 September 2019

Disruption fears for Aer Lingus Regional passengers as Stobart Air cabin crew ballot for industrial action

Stock photo: PA
Stock photo: PA
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Aer Lingus Regional passengers could have to brace for strike action as cabin crew employed by Stobart Air, which operates the service, ballot for industrial action.

Trade union Fórsa claimed that Dublin-based Stobart Air has refused to recognise the union and negotiate with it on staff pay and working conditions.

The union insisted that a recent pay proposal at Stobart Air "fell short of recent airline industry norms", and was rejected by a majority of cabin crew eligible to vote.

A Fórsa spokesman said there are between 130 and 140 directly-employed Stobart Air cabin crew working out of Dublin and Cork. It employs a total of about 600 people.

"We believe that basic pay is significantly lower than industry norms, which leaves staff relying heavily on flight-related allowances," he added.

A strike by cabin crew could cause major upset for Aer Lingus passengers, with the Aer Lingus Regional service used to funnel customers from across the UK to Dublin for onward travel to North America, for instance.

Stobart Air operates the service on a franchise basis using 19 turboprop aircraft.

Fórsa official Ashley Connolly claimed that Stobart Air cabin crew are frustrated with the current impasse.

"They see their colleagues in other Irish-based airlines and they know it’s the industry norm for unions to negotiate on behalf of staff," she said.

"I understand their frustration at a management team that continues to deny its workers access to a service that other airlines accept as normal practice and sound industrial relations," added Ms Connolly.

The union official said that she wrote last week to Stobart Air management re-stating Fórsa’s willingness to use the Workplace Relations Commission, but has not had a response.

"Management’s refusal to do business in the usual way has left its staff feeling they have no choice but to consider industrial action," she said.

Stobart Air is now part of Connect Airways, a consortium formed late last year to acquire ailing UK carrier Flybe. Connect’s shareholders include Virgin, Stobart Group and hedge fund Cyrus Capital Partners.

A spokesperson said this evening; "The company has always maintained an engaged and collaborative relationship with all staff, including cabin crew, at the airline.

"The 2016 pay agreement, agreed fully in collaboration with staff and the SACG, was in place until 2019.

"Discussion to put in place a successor agreement has been underway since last year and progressed to a point where the SACG had made a positive recommendation to cabin crew.

"Given this progress, and our ongoing engagement, this sudden development is particularly surprising.

"We remain committed to engagement with our staff and will continue to engage to reach agreement on this matter over the coming period."

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