THE Labour Court was today urged to intervene in the Aer Lingus cabin crew roster row after the airline cancelled 34 flights from Dublin to Europe.
In a major escalation of the dispute which started on Monday, some 2,700 passengers were affected, but transatlantic flights went ahead as normal.
Flights from Cork and Shannon have not been affected during the three days of the dispute.
There was no sign of an early end to the rostering disagreement, with more disruption for thousands of passengers in the next few days.
Aer Lingus confirmed that 82 cabin crew employees have now been suspended in the row over new rosters.
So far, 120 staff have refused to operate the new rosters, which they say have been introduced without agreement.
Impact trade union has called on the Labour Court to intervene to settle the row, while last night, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey urged both sides to engage with the "industrial relations mechanisms of the State".
"We have asked the Labour Court to intervene because we understand that the problem needs to be resolved and because we are confident that we have a strong case to put before an independent third party," a union spokesman said.
However, the airline said it did not see any scope for further talks at this particular point in time.
"We are only interested in implementing the 850 hours and working to the rosters we have published," said the airline's head of human resources, Michael Grealy.
Any attempt by the union to engage in further conciliation would "represent a cynical attempt to backtrack" on the requirements to increase flying hours for cabin crew to 850 a year. The union said cabin crew have accepted the requirement to increase flying hours to 850 a year under the company's 'Greenfield' cost -saving plan.
But it said its members had not voted to accept the new rosters introduced unilaterally by management.
Among cabin crew removed from their duties and the Aer Lingus payroll is Aideen Walsh, the cabin crew member featured in a massive promotional poster at the company's Dublin HQ.
She said it was "very unfortunate that it has come to this situation". She said she had not refused to work her flight or any of her duties.
"I am here willing to work. We have agreed to work these 850 hours. We are extremely close to reaching that."
Fine Gael said passengers were being used as "pawns" in the dispute, while Labour's Transport spokesman, Joe Costello, TD, said that when the country is haemorrhaging air passengers, "the last thing we need is a prolonged dispute".
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