More strikes set in Aer Lingus as management collapses cabin crew talks

IMPACT is to issue Aer Lingus management with notice of two further one-day strikes – on Monday 16th and Wednesday 18th June – after talks broke down this evening. The union said management had refused to negotiate in good faith and instead issued a take-it-or-leave-it proposal, which it knew would be unacceptable to staff because it would mean hundreds of jobs losses in Aer Lingus and Irish companies that rely on its business.

IMPACT official Michael Landers said the union had been willing to continue talks over the weekend, but management walked away.

Mr Landers said management’s only proposals in three days of talks would require staff who currently fly short and long haul flights to be rostered solely for one or the other. This would immediately make the crewing of transatlantic flights from Ireland unviable because it would be impossible for cabin crew to meet their targets for flying hours (called ‘block hours’) if they only flew transatlantic flights. Block hours do not take account of the time staff are on duty when they are not actually flying.

“By tabling a clearly-unacceptable take-it-or-leave-it proposal, which would inevitably lead to hundreds of Irish jobs being exported to the USA, management has demonstrated that it never intended to negotiate in good faith – and that it cares little about unemployment or the Irish economy. Management negotiators have blankly refused to test a ‘5:3’ roster across long and short-haul flights, even though pilots deliver an effective and profitable service by working similar rosters.

“For two decades, Aer Lingus management has said it’s inefficient to separate long haul and short-haul rosters. Now they insist on it because they want this negotiation to fail. Cabin crew are up against a management team that seems determined on conflict rather than trying to find practical and acceptable solutions. Therefore, we have had to conclude that, regrettably, only further industrial action can bring about a constructive approach from management.”

Mr Landers said the company had refused to consider a trial period for the union’s proposed ‘5:3’ rosters. “In three days of talks they simply refused to discuss it. Yet cabin crew are confident that these alternative rosters could be implemented with no loss of productivity or at any extra cost to the airline. We simply want to test a system that ensures adequate rest between blocks of duty, and which we know works effectively, profitably, and sustainably for other airlines,” he said.

Cabin crew are seeking a roster that spreads their existing working hours over five days, followed by three rest days. Current rosters mean they can 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. IMPACT says current cabin crew roster patterns are erratic, unpredictable and subject to changes at very short notice. “Many cabin crew are struggling to maintain caring arrangements when they are on duty and many have reported incidences of extreme fatigue necessitating medical attention. It cannot continue like this,” said Mr Landers.

First published Friday 6th June 2014