Labour Court in last-ditch mediation bid to halt more Aer Lingus strikes

Tuesday, June 10, 2014
By Stephen Rogers

Labour Court officials will tomorrow try to mediate a resolution to the rostering dispute at Aer Lingus before the travel plans of tens of thousands of holidaymakers are thrown into chaos by strikes next week.

There are 70,000 passengers booked to fly with the airline next Monday and Wednesday, the two days nominated for 24-hour stoppages by cabin crew trade union Impact.

The invitation issued to the sides by the court last night made no requirement for the union to suspend the action before entering the talks. If the strike threat remains in place — and cabin crew appear in no mood to suspend it at this stage — time will be short for the mediation process to make progress before the airline will have to start hiring in aircraft and cancelling flights.

In advance of the Labour Court invite, management used its website to tell intending passengers its operations team has already begun a planning process aimed at minimising the effects of strikes on its flight schedule.

The airline faces the loss of up to €20m in revenue if next week’s strike goes ahead.

Yesterday Transport Minister Leo Varadkar called on the two sides to desist from “megaphone diplomacy”, saying negotiation was the only way the roster dispute can be resolved.

Impact has claimed cabin crew are having to work up to 60 hours in a seven-day period, resulting in shift patterns of six working days and one rest day, followed by six more working days. It has said staff want a roster similar to pilots at the airline — five work days followed by three rest days.

However, management has not only denied the union’s claims regarding the current rosters but it has also questioned whether all the cabin crew actually want the 5:3 rotas put in place.

It says that, before the talks broke down last Friday night, it told the union it was willing to introduce the 5:3 rosters on short-haul in Dublin and Cork. However, it said it was unwilling to implement such rosters on a trial basis and also warned the new rosters had to be “cost-neutral”.

That would mean a lot of features introduced into current rosters around “lifestyle requests” would have to go.

Impact insists that the talks broke down because the company tabled a “clearly unacceptable take-it-or-leave-it proposal, which would inevitably lead to hundreds of Irish jobs being exported to the USA”.

It has said the airline, by insisting on a separation of long-haul and short-haul as a pre-condition to 5:3 rosters, had “engineered” a situation whereby those rosters would appear more costly than the current rosters, making them unworkable.

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