Carrier refuses to attend labour court and defends package available to laid off staff
AER Lingus has refused to attend a Labour Court hearing on the closure of its Shannon cabin crew base.
The matter was referred to the Labour Court by trade union Fórsa, after the two sides failed to reach agreement on staff transfers and redundancy terms.
Last week management wrote to the Shannon cabin crew, telling them to transfer to Dublin or Cork, or alternatively opt for redundancy.
The airline also wrote to the Labour Court and said that there was no point in it engaging, as it wouldn’t be able to offer anything further.
“The purpose of this letter is to inform you that Aer Lingus is not in a position to participate in the proposed hearing on these matters. The reason that we cannot participate is that given the unprecedented challenges facing the company at this time, we are not in a position to accept any recommendation from the Court that could increase the cost or vary the options that have been offered to impacted crew (whether the enhanced severance terms or the conditions for redeployment).
“Aer Lingus cannot therefore participate in good faith in any hearing which could give rise to such a recommendation as it could render unworkable the essential decision that we have taken and must implement.
“We had already advised Forsa of this position when they initially suggested to us that they would refer the matter to the Court.
“We greatly respect the Court and are highly appreciative of its work. Our record of accepting and implementing Court Recommendations reflects this. As such this is not a decision that we have taken lightly.”
In the letter it defended the level of consultation it had engaged in, said it has provided opportunities for redeployment while it also claimed that a relatively generous level of redundancy is on offer.
“The Enhanced Severance terms are five weeks’ per completed year of service to a maximum of 104 weeks (capped at €180,000), inclusive of statutory redundancy entitlements (where applicable). There are also generous staff travel concessions on offer for employees and their family members when they leave employment.
“These enhanced severance terms are our prevailing terms which are currently applicable to other business areas within Aer Lingus that are undergoing change programmes currently.
“These severance terms offered are extremely fair and competitive when compared to what is on offer generally within Irish industry and what others within the aviation sector have offered to redundant employees.
“These severance terms represent the extent of what Aer Lingus can afford to pay given the profound and unprecedented effect the Covid pandemic has had and continues to have on our business.”
They also claim that the Fórsa demands are “unaffordable and unrealistic” and would add millions more to the costs they are facing.
“In the context of our enhanced severance terms which go far beyond minimum statutory entitlements, we estimate the additional cost of their requests to be in the region of €2.65 million. For example, should all 81 cabin crew in Shannon leave employment on the enhanced severance terms currently on offer, the total cost to Aer Lingus would be €7.2 million.
“The requirements of Forsa would add €2.65 million or 37% which is simply not affordable or acceptable and cannot be reconciled with the seriousness of our current situation.
“We must also consider that given the ongoing effect of the pandemic, further redundancies across Aer Lingus are highly likely. We cannot afford for ‘the going rate’ to be increased beyond its existing generous level in this context and in circumstances where operations employees remain on reduced hours and pay.”
Fórsa official Ian McDonnell accused the company of disrespecting loyal staff, as well as the Labour Court.
“Aer Lingus has received hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ euro throughout the Covid crisis. Now it has spurned the State’s top industrial relations body, declared an incomplete consultation over, and ordered staff to respond to its ‘take it or leave it’ terms.
“Far from trying to save jobs in the battered aviation sector, the airline’s approach is increasing the risk that loyal staff will be made redundant against their will and on substandard terms,” he said.