Tanaiste says job guarantee in IAG sale is of 'paramount importance' to Government
TANAISTE Joan Burton has warned that the issue of jobs at Aer Lingus remains of "paramount importance" to the Government in its negotiations with bidder IAG.
Ms Burton has thrown the gauntlet down to the airline giant by emphasising the importance of the 1,400 Aer Lingus jobs.
While deputies welcomed IAG's five-year guarantee on the issue of the Heathrow slots, they have pointed out that the company is a major employer in Labour's North Dublin stronghold.
Ministers have been advised not to comment directly on the progress between IAG and the Government due to market rules.
But Ms Burton, the Labour Party leader, yesterday said that jobs must play a central consideration.
"I've said before that the critical issues are access into and from the island of Ireland for all of us.
"But also, in terms of investment and Foreign Direct Investment in particular, and in relation to tourism. And, secondly then, the issue of employment in Aer Lingus," she told reporters.
"They remain the paramount considerations. Because we are an island, the issue of connections to and from Ireland is of absolute importance," she added.
Owen Reidy from trade union Siptu, which represents almost 50pc of Aer Lingus workers, welcomed the Tanaiste's remarks as he said "protecting the jobs are obviously key".
"But, if we don't protect the other stuff, you won't be able to protect the jobs in Aer Lingus, the two are interlinked," Mr Reidy warned last night.
These concerns come after Aer Lingus confirmed that it has reopened its voluntary redundancy scheme.
A spokesperson for the airline confirmed that a circular about the '2015 Voluntary Severance Programme' had been issued to staff. But the airline said that it was not linked to the potential sale.
The document, which was issued to staff earlier this week, said the programme is "to enable restructuring and cost reduction initiatives identified as part of the CORE programme".
A similar programme had previously been launched in 2013, but it's understood there had been little uptake at the time due to negotiations in the airline's pension scheme.
The programme is open to applicants who have a minimum of two years' service, and for every year with the company, successful applicants will receive six weeks' pay, as well as a bonus depending on service.