AER LINGUS cabin crew were today considering an ultimatum from management to accept new rosters or be sacked.
The airline is using its €900m cash reserves to hire aircraft that come with their own pilots and cabin crew, to ensure a full service for passengers while its own planes remain on the tarmac.
The message was being couriered directly to the 140 staff involved in the row over shifts, which involve new meal-break arrangements and double shifts. The letter asks them to sign a "form of undertaking" or enter a disciplinary process which means they could be dismissed. It accuses staff of failing to comply with contractual obligations.
Impact union, which represents the crews, said the threat to sack staff was "completely at odds" with the message by chief executive Christoph Mueller in newspaper adverts yesterday, which described the cabin crew as being among the best in the world who deserved appreciation from the company for their flexibility and dedication. "This apparent attempt to frighten cabin crew into submission and divide a unified group has completely misjudged the mood of cabin crew and, if anything, will make it harder to find a solution to this problem," said a union spokesman.
The union added that it would help members if they received correspondence from the company and would represent them in any dealings with their "increasingly volatile employer".
Impact maintains controversial aspects of the rosters include the way duties can be changed by three hours on the day of duty, making it impossible to plan childcare; the introduction of "double" shifts and the removal of meal breaks from European flights.
It also claims that cabin crew can be sent to work away from base for 26 days at a stretch.
But airline bosses said the sole responsibility for flight cancellations lay with union members taking industrial action after 15 months of "negotiation, agreement, clarification, conciliation and binding arbitration".
Aer Lingus has said it expects to operate its full schedule over this weekend.
It is understood that a handful of cabin crew who refused to work the rosters and were going through the disciplinary process had now signed the letter of undertaking.
Meanwhile, passengers who have had their plans disrupted are entitled to compensation in some cases, according to the Commission for Aviation Regulation.