Business Irish

Sunday 25 March 2018

The final shareholder meeting was extraordinarily ordinary

Therese Traynor among protesters outside the Aer Lingus EGM yesterday
Therese Traynor among protesters outside the Aer Lingus EGM yesterday

A phalanx of protesters outside the Crowne Plaza hotel in Santry near Dublin Airport yesterday morning is a by now familiar scene for Aer Lingus executives arriving for the airline's shareholder meetings.

But yesterday was the last time the protesters would have a ready opportunity to voice their anger over what they say are savage cuts made to the pensions, despite decades working at what was once the national carrier.

The pension cuts were made as a result of efforts to shore up a troubled scheme that had a massive deficit - close to €800m at one stage.

After years of talks, a solution was thrashed out last year, but the result is that entitlements were cut for existing and deferred pensioners.

Current pensioners have had the equivalent of six weeks' pay cut from their annual pension.

Future retirees still working with the airline were moved to a new defined contribution pension scheme.

The pensioners and deferred pensioners are angry, but the reality is that any effort to reverse the decisions that have already been made, or even to secure additional funds from the airline, appear to be all but lost now that Aer Lingus is so close to being bought by IAG.

Therese Traynor, who worked with Aer Lingus for 22 years in its catering arm, left in 2009. She says her future pension from Aer Lingus will be 60pc lower than what she expected.

"I don't know after today where it leaves us. We're in limbo," said the 52-year-old. "At 55, I'm going to have to keep working, where I might have only had to work part-time."

Con Clarke (80) was a senior executive with Aer Lingus and worked in customer relations at the airline. He retired in 1999.

"The Government owes us a certain commitment," he said. A court case against the State by retired Aer Lingus workers who had their pensions cut is looming.

Inside the hotel, the Aer Lingus meeting heard from many of the usual suspects who attend shareholder meetings of many Irish companies that are listed on the stock exchange.

There was more anger surrounding the pensions issue, but it was a relatively muted affair given the fact that it was the last chance for any of the shareholders to air their views.

The extraordinary general meeting was extraordinary because it was actually so ordinary.

Irish Independent

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