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Aer Lingus contract puts 1,500 jobs at risk

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A continuation of the overtime ban by air traffic controllers could lead to delays at Dublin Airport because, in the interests
of safety, the Irish Aviation Authority would have to restrict the number of aircraft using Dublin's airspace

A continuation of the overtime ban by air traffic controllers could lead to delays at Dublin Airport because, in the interests of safety, the Irish Aviation Authority would have to restrict the number of aircraft using Dublin's airspace

A continuation of the overtime ban by air traffic controllers could lead to delays at Dublin Airport because, in the interests of safety, the Irish Aviation Authority would have to restrict the number of aircraft using Dublin's airspace

UP to 1,500 jobs may be lost at SR Technics Ireland, the company formerly known as Team Aer Lingus, if it loses a key maintenance contract with the airline.

According to an SR Technics document presented to staff representatives last week, the Aer Lingus preference is to take the key routine maintenance contract in-house, in which case the Irish operation would be closed with the loss of 1,200 full-time jobs and a further 300 associated positions.

In the past month Aer Lingus has decided to award two of the four maintenance contracts, one for brakes and wheels, and one for components, to other companies.

Over the past two days the airline has been in intensive discussions with maintenance firms hoping to win the contract for the general overhaul of planes. A decision on that contract is expected later today.

The key contract for SR Technics relates to the routine maintenance, or "line maintenance" of the Aer Lingus fleet. This contract is expected to be decided on next week.

In a presentation to trade union representatives, the company described its Irish profitability as "marginal".

SR Technics bosses said: "We understand that the Aer Lingus preference may be to insource the line maintenance activity. This would give rise to significant industrial relations issues affecting both companies."

Closure of the company (SR Technics Ireland) is the likely scenario in the case where the contract is lost, warned management.

Siptu met with Transport Minister Noel Dempsey yesterday and expressed its concern that Aer Lingus, which is partly state-owned, was jeopardising the future of SR Technics in Ireland.

Irish and European law prohibits any intervention by the Government and it is understood this was communicated to the union.

Nevertheless, the prospect of the closure of SR Technics at Dublin Airport is bound to cause uneasiness for the Government. As with Aer Lingus's decision to exit Shannon, it is likely to draw attention to the Government's decision to privatise the airline.

Politicians will also recall how political turmoil engulfed Aer Lingus's original decision to establish its maintenance operations as a separate subsidiary in 1990.

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That row was only resolved when the then transport minister Seamus Brennan gave "letters of comfort" to the 1,500 Team Aer Lingus employees guaranteeing that their jobs were secure.

When Aer Lingus sold Team Aer Lingus to SR Technics -- then known as FLS Aerospace -- in 1997, FLS was forced to spend €70m buying out these letters of comfort.

Siptu president Jack O'Connor said the trade union may insist the letters be honoured.

He said: "If people are in possession of letters of comfort and their employment is in jeopardy, that is an issue which will have to be resolved. He also said the union may resort to legal action in the event that Aer Lingus does take the line maintenance contract in-house, to force the airline to re-employ the SR Technics staff.

"We view it (the SR Technics contract) as an undertaking," he said.


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