THE creation of 40 new Aer Lingus jobs at Shannon to service the airline’s transatlantic services in the New Year is under threat this week.
This is due to disagreement between the airline and trade union IMPACT, which represents cabin crew staff, over the staffing of the flights and as a result Aer Lingus has said it will be outsourcing the work. They have also warned that some of the existing cabin crew jobs may be jeopardised.
The trade union claims that the airline has failed to negotiate with them in a meaningful way, and they are balloting their members for industrial action.
IMPACT also claims that Aer Lingus are using scare tactics to try and get what they want, and it is imperative that their members don’t give in to them.
In a letter to staff, Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller put the blame firmly on IMPACT. “I wish to update you on an important and very regrettable development in our preparation for the 2014 expansion of our transatlantic business.
“Yesterday, we informed ASL Aviation/Air Contractors Limited that our Shannon-based Cabin Crew will not crew the Boeing 757 operations next year and that they are to start their recruitment process to resource the operations.
“The company has been notified by IMPACT that as the union representing the majority of our cabin crew they will not agree to crewing the operations. This is a truly appaling situation. Air Contractors Limited will operate the 757 services under a ‘wet lease’ agreement. It was our wish that the cabin crew element of this service would be provided by Aer Lingus Shannon based cabin crew. Following yesterday’s notification from IMPACT it appears that Aer Lingus cannot provide this service on a competitive basis. Air Contractors will now crew this service with four cabin crew per flight, which IMPACT feels is unacceptable to our Shannon-based cabin crew, which it represents. In plain terms, we offered to create Shannon-based jobs for four Aer Lingus cabin crew per flight, IMPACT is insistent that they want five, and the unfortunate outcome is that we are now unable to create any Aer Lingus jobs.”
He claimed to regret the outcome and issued a warning that some of the existing Shannon jobs could go. “It would have been a strong affirmation of our airline’s ability to perform, adapt and compete while growing our business, if Aer Lingus crew were to provide the in-flight service. Our
Shannon-based cabin crew have shown enormous loyalty and flexibility over the last years. Under our proposal these Aer Lingus colleagues would have been rewarded with improved job security at current conditions.
“I regret that our employees will now not be available to serve our customers in the Aer Lingus way. We will grow our transatlantic services next year. We will nearly double our T/A frequency from Shannon, as well as adding Dublin-San Francisco and Dublin-Toronto to our network; however instead of creating Aer Lingus jobs at Shannon we are now faced with a surplus of cabin crew, which will need to be addressed. IMPACT’s own goal is a lost opportunity for our Shannon team.”
However the version of events put forward by Mr Mueller is not accepted by IMPACT.
A statement on their website this week read; “Members of the cabin crew branch of IMPACT trade union are to ballot for industrial action in response to Aer Lingus management’s move to outsource cabin crew on transatlantic services. IMPACT refutes management claims that the union is unwilling to discuss new crewing arrangements on the routes.
“IMPACT said that the company had refused to engage in genuine negotiations about new crewing arrangements on the service. The union accepts that new arrangements are necessary because the company is to use smaller aircraft on transatlantic services from January 2014. But the union says management proposals to halve crew numbers would fail to maintain the level of in-flight services to passengers.
Summing up their position spokesman, Michael Landers said; “We have made consistent efforts to engage meaningfully on this issue with the company. But it has emerged that they simply want to outsource the service, rather than agree how experienced Shannon-based crew can continue to deliver what is an excellent service.”
IMPACT have urged members to vote in favour of the industrial action and in a letter accompanying its ballot papers, it said that management have behaved abysmally in several other respects, which should all be considered.
The letter claimed that people are being forced to work excessive shifts, with rosters subject to “radical changes” leaving crew with little certainty over working hours. It also claims that management habitually breach agreements and that “the normal system of processing industrial relations issues affecting cabin crew has been effectively abandoned by management.”
With regard to the proposals on Shannon cabin crew, it states that other workers could come into the firing line if the jobs are outsourced now. “You will be aware that management has moved unilaterally to outsource cabin crew for the 757 transatlantic service, due to commence in January 2014. This has major implications for members in Shannon but, if unchecked, it may also lead management to believe it can outsource other cabin crew duties in the future.”
It claimed that Aer Lingus has tried to railroad the workers into doing what they want without negotiation, and that such behaviour should not be tolerated. “Management’s approach to this issue is of concern to all cabin crew. Management initially told your IMPACT branch committee that Aer Lingus cabin crew would operate the transatlantic service using the 757 aircraft. We sought negotiations on the crewing arrangements for this service, but management has refused to engage in any meaningful talks. Instead it has simply declared that it will outsource the work because the union won’t agree to unacceptable crewing levels, which would clearly not be adequate to maintain service standards.
“The company then approached Shannon cabin crew with an ultimatum, threatening to outsource the work and make staff redundant. This was followed by an announcement that the work would be outsourced when the union refused to submit to management’s ultimatum.
“If management succeeds in changing working conditions through ultimatums backed by threats of redundancy in this situation, it will certainly believe it can dos so on other issues. It may also feel emboldened to outsource other cabin crew duties.”
In the letter it said that Aer Lingus workers have made sacrifice to ensure the airline is profitable, but that this need not be at the expense of “decent working conditions and respect for staff and their representatives.”
It said it was time for the members to stand up to the type of tactics they are facing. “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.
“We urge you to vote in favour of industrial action.”
There are to be a series of information meetings and the ballot is due to close at noon on Thursday, October 30.