Friday stoppage to go ahead
Aer Lingus cabin crew represented by IMPACT, who will engage in a 24 hour stoppage tomorrow (Friday 30th May), have expressed genuine regret that a dispute about rosters has led to a necessity for strike action. But the union says that talks aimed at resolving the issue need to demonstrate that the employer is serious about solving ongoing roster problems.
IMPACT said that the airline’s invitation to talks issued on Tuesday (27th May) came too late to prevent the action from going ahead. Speaking on behalf of the union’s cabin crew branch committee, IMPACT official Michael Landers said that IMPACT had made it clear that the union was available at any time to talk about the issue. “We extended that offer on many occasions previously, and stated it again in our strike notice on 13th May. The invitation came too late to prevent this action from going ahead, but we would hope that this would mark the beginning of a process that would see this issue resolved once and for all.
“There is a considerable lack of trust among cabin crew who question senior management’s willingness to address this problem. Aer Lingus management has already breached existing agreements and refused to implement Labour Court recommendations. An invitation to talks, on its own, simply isn’t enough to convince our cabin crew members,” he said.
A commencement date for talks is expected to be confirmed today.
Máire Ní Chleirigh has worked with the airline for 25 years. “We want to work with management in a constructive and positive way and develop rosters that meet both our needs and their needs. We would rather be doing our job than taking this action, but we can’t go on any longer the way things are. We are happy to meet the company’s productivity demands, and the long days that go with it. But we need our time off, our rest time, to be better planned in order to meet those demands. Stable roster patterns like the one we’ve proposed are already in use in other airlines,” she said.
Mr Landers said that the message he was hearing from members is that the stoppage, which will affect Aer Lingus flights from Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports, could have been avoided. “Every cabin crew member I’ve spoken to believes that the action could have been avoided if the company had listened to what cabin crew were saying about their rosters. They are expressing genuine regret that it has come to this point but feel very strongly that they were left with no choice.”
Mr Landers said that the company had refused to consider a trial period for the union’s proposed “5:3” rosters on European short haul services. “The idea was just not up for discussion. Management simply got up and left the room when we attempted to talk to them about it. Our next meeting needs to be much more productive” he said.
Mr Landers said that the cabin crew branch is confident that alternative rosters could be implemented with no loss of productivity or at any extra cost to the airline. “What we’re seeking here is simply to test a system that ensures adequate rest between blocks of duty, and which we know is in place in other airlines. In the long term, it would be a more sustainable approach for the airline as well as for the crew.”
No additional leave being sought
The union has said that, contrary to company claims about seeking additional leave, the “5:3” roster pattern sought by cabin crew was about delivering the same high levels of productivity and flying hours, but managing the time more efficiently. “The company’s claims around this are simply wrong. Our members are not seeking extra leave. They are quite prepared to work to the demands of the schedule, but they need to have adequate periods of rests between blocks of duty. This would put an end to the chaotic roster patterns currently in use and make the rosters more sustainable. A revised working pattern would better equip the crew to meet the service and safety demands of their job.”
Mr Landers said that, faced with a proposed “5:3” schedule by Aer Lingus pilots three years ago, the company was similarly resistant to making changes. “Nevertheless, after thrashing it out with IALPA members, the company introduced a trial period. Three years on the pilots’ 5:3 roster pattern is working very well for Aer Lingus. Pilots are meeting all of the company’s productivity demands, and flight crews are adequately rested between duties. If management had been prepared to consider the same sort of limited trial period for cabin crew, we wouldn’t be facing this work stoppage tomorrow.”
Members of the IALPA (pilots) branch of IMPACT have expressed support for cabin crew staff. IALPA president, Captain Evan Cullen, said “I’m dismayed that the pilot rostering system is being denied to cabin crew. IALPA understands that cabin crew have only asked for the exact same parameters in this proposed rostering system as the short haul (A320) pilots who have operated the system for the last three years, achieving all the productivity targets set by management.”
Captain Cullen said that cabin crew and pilots are governed by the same legal flight time limits. “This proposed new rostering system facilitates rostering crew to the maximum legal limits as set down by European and Irish legislation.”
“Living in my uniform”
Cabin crew members have described how the rostering arrangements can affect them. Audrey Fennell, who has also worked at the airline for 25 years, said that the erratic roster arrangements made her feel that she is living in her uniform. “Often I get home and I have to think about whether I have time to have something to eat before I go to bed, constantly watching the clock, thinking about sleep patterns and jet lag, it completely consumes my life,” she said.
Audrey said it was clear that pilots had benefitted from their changed rosters. “They have adequate time to rest between periods of work, and are able to work harder on the five days they are on duty. Cabin crew are not afraid of hard work, what we’re concerned about is the lack of rest we get in between. You’re not firing on all cylinders if you haven’t got enough time to rest between shifts,” she said.