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Passengers face chaos as Aer Lingus cancels 34 flights

AER Lingus passengers face the prospect of further flight turmoil today despite last-ditch appeals to the State's most senior mediation body to end a row over rosters.

Some 34 flights have been cancelled today with 2,600 passengers affected.

Yesterday more than 1,000 passengers were hit when 12 flights to and from European destinations were cancelled.

There was little sign the dispute may be resolved as the airline continued to remove cabin crew from the payroll if they failed to work new rosters.

So far in excess of 120 cabin crew employees have refused to co-operate with the new rosters. Following individual meetings yesterday, 82 of these have been removed from their duties and the Aer Lingus payroll.

IMPACT appealed to the Labour Court to step in and vowed to accept its recommendation, but Aer Lingus said it "did not see the point in any further discussion".

Pressure is mounting on both sides to resolve their differences as Transport Minister Noel Dempsey stepped in and urged them to "find a quick resolution" and pointed out they have state industrial relations machinery at their disposal.

Fine Gael said passengers were being used "as pawns" in the dispute, while Labour urged the transport minister to ensure the Labour Court intervenes.

The Irish Travel Agents Association blamed the cabin crew for "apparently backtracking" on an agreement with the airline to work 850 flying hours a year. And it blamed the airline for failing to put contingency plans in place when it decided to take a hardline stance with staff who refused to work new rosters.

The association appealed to the minister to "knock heads together" to end the row as the country's reputation was "at an all time low" and business people and holidaymakers are stranded.

Twelve flights to and from Frankfurt, Malaga, Madrid, Amsterdam, London Heathrow and Rome were cancelled yesterday as the airline sent home cabin crew who refused to work the rosters. This followed the cancellation of five transatlantic flights on Monday and Tuesday, and a three-hour delay on another flight from Dublin to New York.

An IMPACT spokesperson said third-party intervention would be "helpful". But Aer Lingus said it had not sought any further intervention as it had already spent 15 months in extensive discussions at the Labour Relations Commission and a binding arbitration process.

"We simply want the IMPACT cabin crew union members to work the rosters to deliver the 850 flying hours requirement accepted by 93pc of cabin crew in October last year, and included in the binding arbitration process."

Aer Lingus said the cabin crew's decision to sign up to its cost-cutting Greenfield agreement last year, which included a provision that they fly for 850 hours a year, meant they should work the new rosters to achieve this.

But IMPACT said its agreement to increase flying hours following a vote on Greenfield last year did not mean members accepted the roster changes imposed by management.

It denied the airline's claim that the changes it brought in on Monday were part of the Labour Relations Commision's binding arbitration last year.

The union said any measures that had not been agreed should be worked out at the Labour Relations Commission, as was required under the agreement.

Irish Independent