IMPACT, which represents cabin crew staff at Aer Lingus, has condemned the decision by management at the airline to close the cabin crew base at Shannon from the end of March 2014, putting 87 jobs under threat.
The announcement was made by Aer Lingus on Thursday last, the same day that Ryanair announced eight new routes from the airport.
On Thursday, Aer Lingus confirmed it had informed its staff of planned changes to Shannon’s cabin crew base, explaining the operation there is no longer viable following failure to secure co-operation from IMPACT to allow its members to operate the smaller 757 aircraft on new transatlantic services.
Responding to the announcement, IMPACT said the measure is “an act of wanton destruction upon the livelihoods of workers who are loyal to the company, and a potentially vicious blow to the economy of the Shannon region”.
IMPACT said its members in Aer Lingus across the country will fight the closure. The union said there is still sufficient time to find a way to resolve outstanding issues and reverse the decision.
In its statement, Aer Lingus said, in July, it had announced the expansion of its transatlantic services next year, nearly doubling its frequency from Shannon, as well as adding Dublin-San Francisco and Dublin-Toronto to its network.
But in order to service the expanded network, the airline agreed to wet lease three Boeing 757s from ASL Aviation / Air Contractors limited (ACL) and wished to crew each aircraft with Aer Lingus Shannon-based crew.
However, in negotiations since March, agreement was not reached with the unions and, following a review, it was established that it was not sustainable to maintain a cabin crew base in Shannon for the Shannon-London short-haul route only.
In a letter to employees on Thursday, Christoph Mueller, chief executive said, “Having been informed by IMPACT that their members would not crew the transatlantic operations, we instructed ACL to start the process of recruiting to resource the operation so that we can meet our obligations to customers booked for the first service commencing January 2014. For those Shannon-based crew who indicated their desire to crew the aircraft, I regret that this opportunity has been lost.
“Importantly, there will be no reduction to the Aer Lingus Shannon schedule or fleet – we will operate the same short-haul service and will double our long haul frequency. Regrettably, the resultant job creation will not happen within Aer Lingus. There will be no reduction in Aer Lingus cabin crew numbers as the A330 currently in Shannon will operate the San Francisco flight out of Dublin.
“This is a situation that we never contemplated being in. What started out as a great opportunity to protect existing jobs for Aer Lingus crew, to create 40 extra jobs and to provide promotional opportunity, has ended up in making the Shannon cabin crew base unviable,” it stated.
IMPACT official Michael Landers said the action of Aer Lingus management was entirely unnecessary.
“We have made consistent efforts to have discussions with the company on the appropriate crew levels for this new service. Management has attempted to bully its own staff into submission with an ultimatum, and then slammed the door on discussions when it announced it would outsource crew,” he said.
“Management did this despite the fact that cabin crew representatives made it very clear they were willing to discuss the matter further and had not, contrary to claims by management, refused to crew the flights with a complement of four crew members. All we sought was a common sense approach to the task of planning the new service. Blaming the union that represents staff for management’s own actions was disingenuous at best,” he continued.
Mr Landers added, “Aer Lingus management has shown a willingness to play with people’s livelihoods to make a point, as it cast out a group of 30 cabin crew trainees two weeks ago to pave the way for its outsourcing plan. This action was, again, unnecessary in addition to being unfair.
Management’s preference for drastic and unnecessary actions will deliver another in a long line of body blows for the Shannon region.
“This makes no sense, and the decisions made will wreak local economic destruction for a long time to come,” he added.
The pilots’ branch of the union, IALPA, has said its members are monitoring developments at Shannon. Pilot representatives say their agreement to operate the new transatlantic service is based on an understanding that Aer Lingus cabin crew would work on the new service and has urged management to return to talks with cabin crew.
IMPACT members continue to ballot for industrial action on a range of issues, including rostering, breaches of current agreements and management’s decision to outsource the transatlantic service in 2014. The ballot was due to close this week but has been extended to Monday next.
Aer Lingus advised on Thursday that it will enter into a 30-day period of consultation with union representatives to explore the options that may be available for those affected.
This will include transfer to Cork or Dublin, voluntary severance or unpaid leave for those who secure work with ACL and, if necessary, redundancy.
Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Transport, Tourism and Sport Deputy Timmy Dooley, expressed his disappointment with the announcement by Aer Lingus to close its cabin crew base at Shannon.
He said it overshadowed news that new routes by Ryanair could bring 300,000 more passengers to Shannon next year. “I would appeal to the unions and management to sit down and seek to find a resolution to the dispute. I believe it is highly important that Shannon retains a cabin crew base in Shannon, which would give a great impetus for development and growth of Aer Lingus in the region.”