Aer Lingus unions fear for staff conditions if takeover goes ahead

Irish Times                  3rd March 2015

Aer Lingus union leaders are sceptical about assurances that existing agreements with the company will be honoured if International Consolidated Airlines’ Group (IAG) takes it over.

On his first day as the new chief executive of Aer Lingus, Stephen Kavanagh reassured staff that, if the bid from IAG goes ahead, any new opportunities will be governed by existing collective agreements and delivered under current employment terms and conditions.

Describing IAG’s proposed offer €1.36 billion offer as “a vote of confidence in and an endorsement of what we have achieved in recent years”, Mr Kavanagh said the acquisition has a “ compelling strategic rationale” and will deliver “significant benefits to all stakeholders in Aer Lingus” in an email yesterday morning to all staff.

Matt Staunton, national secretary of Impact, the trade union that represents flight crew, warned it would be seeking a whole range of guarantees from IAG chief executive Willie Walsh when he meets officials and shop stewards on Friday.

Mr Staunton said Impact will demand assurances existing collective agreements be honoured, that pilots and crew will not be moved to bases outside Ireland and that Aer Lingus staff will not be expected to stand in for union members in other IAG airlines if there is a dispute.

Intense questioning

He warned Impact members were a “million miles” from deciding to back any deal. “This is not a slam dunk by any means,” Mr Staunton said. The union official predicted Mr Walsh is likely to face intense questioning when he meets Impact, Siptu and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on Friday.

He rejected suggestions Impact could be more open to the deal than Siptu as IAG’s proposals indicate more opportunities for its members and stressed the airline’s unions shared the same position.

Mr Staunton questioned whether IAG was serious about getting workers’ backing for its Aer Lingus bid. However, sources said the unions are seen as having an important role to play. If they support a sale, the Labour Party is more likely to agree to a sale of the State’s 25 per cent stake in the company.

IAG, owner of British Airways and Spanish carriers Iberia and Vueling, has been circling Aer Lingus since mid-December. The Irish airline’s board said it is prepared to recommend the group’s €2.55 a share offer for the company.

Revenue benefits

Mr Kavanagh told staff yesterday that, if a sale goes through, Aer Lingus would benefit from revenues from membership of a transatlantic joint business with British Airways and American Airlines and the broader Oneworld Alliance.

“ We would retain our brand, location and independence as an operating company within IAG, while benefiting from all the cost advantages of scale that such a combination will deliver,” he said.

He added increased access to global markets would accelerate growth prospects and increase employment and promotional opportunities in areas such as ground handling, flight operations, inflight services and maintenance.

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