EIGHTY-seven jobs, which were going from Shannon, were secured on Wednesday, after IMPACT members of Aer Lingus’ cabin crew accepted proposals that emerged from talks at the Labour Relations Commission.
Aer Lingus had written to employees telling them the Shannon base would be closed and work outsourced, following a dispute over how new aircraft to be used on transatlantic flights would be crewed.
The company had been insistent that only four cabin crew would be on each flight, while Impact had wanted either five or six.
Under proposals, which were hammered out at talks at the LRC, the transatlantic operation will start with five crew where possible, but this will change to four at the end of March. A joint review will take place in July of next year to consider patterns of traffic and whether crewing arrangements should respond to seasonal factors.
IMPACT spokesman, Michael Landers said there will be some rewards for staff working on flights with four-cabin crew but this wasn’t a central issue.
“Cabin crew would prefer to work with five cabin crew rather than having the additional financial incentives outlined in these proposals. This dispute was never about money. The review that’s been included in these proposals will, I’m sure, show that it is impractical to operate with less than five crew.”
There are 87 cabin crew workers stationed at Shannon and 80 of those are members of the trade union. Seventy of the 80 voted, 58 in favour and 12 against. Cabin crew members of IMPACT not stationed at Shannon did not vote on the motion.
As well as securing the existing jobs, it is expected that some new jobs will be created at the Shannon base.
While Aer Lingus opting to take something of a nuclear option against staff at Shannon may have been the biggest issue, there are several other problems between management and Impact.
In a letter to its members some weeks ago, IMPACT said that staff were working excessive hours and that because of changes to rosters crew have little certainty over their working hours. It claimed that agreements are habitually broken and that “the normal system of processing industrial relations issues affecting cabin crew has been effectively abandoned by management.”
The letter also called for workers to fight back. “We now need to take a collective and determined stand to resist management’s coercive tactics and restore an acceptable approach to industrial relations in the company. If we remain united, we can remain strong in the defence of cabin crew working conditions.
“Management has done all it can to erode morale. By voting for industrial action cabin crew can collectively regain the initiative. Decisive action now will strengthen cabin crew and enable us to fight together for a decent, safe and sustainable work environment.”
Over 90% of members subsequently voted for industrial action up to and including strike.
While closing the Shannon cabin crew base was without doubt the most serious issue, IMPACT had been prepared to ballot even before it emerged as an issue, and there are a number of other difficulties still to be resolved.
Clare TD Pat Breen said he was glad that the Shannon jobs were secured. “I am delighted that agreement has been reached between both sides which has averted the closure of the Airlines Shannon base and that the Cabin Crew Staff have voted to accept the LRC proposals. I have always argued that the Airline’s Shannon based staff are their greatest asset and their experience will now prove invaluable to Aer Lingus on the B757s which they are planning to use on their transatlantic routes into Shannon Airport.
“The certainty for the Shannon-based cabin crew and their families which I am very happy about, as many of them were fearful for their futures. The end of this dispute also brings certainty for the airlines customers paying the way for the restoration of their winter transatlantic services, which is good news for Shannon Airport and for the tourism and business interests throughout the region.”