Friday 27 April 2018

Union slams Lufthansa Technik plant closure

Lufthansa Technik, Airmotive Ireland, near Rathcoole Co Dublin
Lufthansa Technik, Airmotive Ireland, near Rathcoole Co Dublin

Sarah Stack and Ed Carty

More than 400 job losses at an aircraft engine maintenance plant is the worst Christmas present ever, unions warned.

Lufthansa Technik Airmotive Ireland (LTAI) confirmed it is starting a process to "consider closing" its facility in Rathcoole, Co Dublin.

The jobs blow was announced shortly after Government revealed that 700 finance jobs will be created at Deutsche Bank in Dublin in the coming years.

LTAI said it will begin immediate negotiations with Siptu, Unite and the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) which represent the highly-skilled engineers and admin staff.

Arthur Hall, of the TEEU, said the news is the worse Christmas present an employer could attempt to give any worker.

"It was unexpected," he said.

"We never thought it would come to a complete closure. There's nowhere else in this country for them to transfer their skills. It's very short notice. The timing is quite disturbing. There's 410 families affected by this."

The closure, expected as soon as February, comes a week after the nearby PWA International engineering firm laid off 107 workers.

While 20 to 30 workers may be able to transfer to sites across Europe, union chiefs are worried about the pension pot for the remaining workers.

It is 10 million euro (£8.3 million) in deficit and is a stand-alone investment fund not supported by the German company's wider pension plan. Unions have been negotiating for three years to get assurances from management on protection of the fund.

Mr Hall said most of the workers are highly-skilled, well-paid engineers and craftsmen who have been with the company for 20 or 30 years. About two-thirds of the workforce is over 50.

LTAI said the closure follows an extensive review of operations amid declining revenues and shrinking international market opportunities.

The plant - set up by Aer Lingus in 1980 with Lufthansa Technik taking a 60% shareholding in 1997 and full ownership in 1999 - specialised in the repair and overhaul of several engine types.

Managing director Wolfgang Moerig praised the workforce for their contributions over the years and expressed regret that the company was now at this point.

He cited the increased quality and efficiency of the new generations of aircraft engines, with reduced need for overhaul.

Unite regional organiser Willie Quigley said its focus will be on exploring all possible avenues to secure the future of the plant as it currently stands or with a reduced workforce.

"We are assuming that the company will engage in constructive and meaningful negotiations to that end," he said.

"If, despite all efforts by both unions and management to secure the future of these jobs, it is decided that closure is inevitable, we will re-commence consultations with a view to securing the best possible outcome for the workers, not only in terms of a redundancy package but also in terms of securing workers' pension entitlements."

Earlier, Deutsche Bank said it plans to grow its operations in the capital by taking 100,000 square feet of office space at EastPoint Business Park for a new regional hub and centre of excellence.

Hiring will begin in 2014 and all posts should be filled by 2017.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said financial services jobs were supported by his department through IDA Ireland and were a huge vote of confidence in the sector and Ireland's economy.

"This is a sustainable, export-driven industry where Ireland has developed major strengths and we have put in place important changes to target substantial jobs growth in the coming years," he said.

The finance jobs boost came weeks after Danske Bank, formerly National Irish Bank, announced 150 jobs cuts as it pulls all but its corporate services out of the Irish market.

ACC Bank also plans to close all its branches and business centres with the loss of about 180 jobs.

Deutsche Bank has been in Ireland since 1991 and already employs 330 people at two offices in Dublin.

Founded in Berlin in 1870 to promote and facilitate trade relations between Germany, other European countries, and overseas markets, Deutsche Bank employs around 100,000 staff in more than 70 countries worldwide.

Management at the firm said it is focused on recruiting the best talent in Ireland as it already has enduring relationships with local universities which it will continue to nurture.

Barry O'Leary, chief executive of IDA Ireland, said: ''Deutsche Bank is one of Europe's most dynamic financial institutions and this expansion at EastPoint will significantly bolster Ireland's financial services sector.

"Deutsche has successfully built up a strong operation in Ireland over the last 20 years and these plans to create a new centre of excellence in Dublin will confirm Dublin's position as a significant European financial hub.''

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