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Dubai giant to take over Aer Lingus catering

Options for staff include secondment, redeployment or voluntary severance, writes Fearghal O'Connor

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Aer Lingus had tried for many years to outsource its catering at Dublin Airport but had long been stymied by stiff union resistance. However, the airline announced last October that it was to proceed with the outsourcing plan

Aer Lingus had tried for many years to outsource its catering at Dublin Airport but had long been stymied by stiff union resistance. However, the airline announced last October that it was to proceed with the outsourcing plan

Aer Lingus had tried for many years to outsource its catering at Dublin Airport but had long been stymied by stiff union resistance. However, the airline announced last October that it was to proceed with the outsourcing plan

Aer Lingus has struck a deal to outsource its Dublin Airport catering division to the world's second-biggest ground handler.

The deal to bring in the catering division of DNATA (Dubai National Air Transport Association), a major airport services company owned by Dubai's Emirates Group with revenues of more than €3bn per annum, will commence in June.

"Following extensive engagement with employees in our Catering Department, staff representatives and the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), agreement was reached in February to partner with a new supplier for our catering operation," said an Aer Lingus spokeswoman. "In line with that agreement, Dnata will commence provision of catering services for Aer Lingus as planned in June."

Staff have been presented with options and some details are subject to further discussions next week, it is understood.

Aer Lingus had tried for many years to outsource its catering at Dublin Airport but had long been stymied by stiff union resistance. However, the airline announced last October that it was to proceed with the outsourcing plan.

Under the WRC agreement, staff are being asked to avail of transfer of undertakings to transfer to DNATA, retaining their current terms and conditions with the exception of pension arrangements. Or they can work for it under a secondment arrangement, whereby they remain employed by Aer Lingus but work directly for the new operator.

Those who opt for secondment will have to agree to new work practices and methods, and to day-to-day management by DNATA, which has had a catering operation close to the airport since 2018.

"It is understood by the parties that the future headcount structure under the new supplier is expected to be similar to the current Aer Lingus structure," said a document prepared following the WRC discussions. "Nevertheless, it is reasonable to expect the work organisation to be different as the new supplier will surely implement its 'way of doing things'."

Staff who do not wish to continue to work in the catering operation under the new regime can opt for voluntary severance or for redeployment within the airline.

Redeployment would have to be on the basis of vacancies identified by the airline, and this now looks an unlikely option given it has reportedly already laid off at least 60 contract workers due to the impact of the pandemic.

Redundancy terms would see staff get six weeks' pay per year of service as well as a further payment of €12,500 for those with 10 years' service, rising to €25,000 for those with more than 25 years' service. The agreement requires acceptance that "this enhanced model" will not set any level of precedent going forward, and would only apply in the context of the "specific and unique circumstances" of the catering division.

Sunday Indo Business