AER Lingus maintenance workers in Shannon have agreed by “a substantial majority” to accept a deal brokered at the Labour Relations Commission between the company and the UNITE trade union.
It concerns the closure at the end of this month of the hangar Aer Lingus leases at the airport and which employs 70 people.
A minimum of 13 engineers would remain at Shannon for basic line maintenance of aircraft, according to UNITE’s Brian Gormley, while other workers will have up to two years to decide whether to move to Dublin, where Aer Lingus is consolidating its maintenance operations.
It was the end of an era at Shannon this Tuesday as Aer Lingus staff finished work on the last Airbus A320 maintenance check. The last check on the larger A320, which plies Aer Lingus’ transatlantic routes, was carried out by Shannon staff last Thursday. Over 600 such checks were performed on the A330 over the lifetime of the Shannon maintenance operation.
It is understood that the basic redundancy package on offer to those who don’t wish to transfer to Dublin is in line with Aer Lingus’ greenfield restructuring plan - or four weeks’ pay per year of service plus two weeks statutory redundancy. But various add-ons are available to staff in view of the fact that the closure of the facility is at stake. This includes an additional €15,000 “signing-on bonus” for those who sign up to redundancy by the facility’s official closure date of December 31. They also get an extra six months salary in lieu of redeployment costs the company might otherwise have incurred. Those who opt to remain with Aer Lingus and move to Dublin will have accommodation costs in the capital subvented by the company for an initial period.
Mr Gormley said it would be unfair to go into full details of the deal agreed at the Labour Relations Commission last month but said “it was as much as we could hope to achieve from the company at this stage”.
A ballot conducted among members was counted this week and resulted in the LRC deal being accepted by “a substantial majority” of the Shannon workforce, he added.
“Another positive that hasn’t been widely reported is that those who are potentially interested in moving to Dublin have up to two years to test the waters there before they make their final decision,” he said.
Aer Lingus, meanwhile, said its future maintenance operations would no longer require hangar space.
“Our future plans are to run a line maintenance operation at Shannon. The line maintenance activity will be staffed by 13 engineers. This line maintenance activity will not require a hangar and we will therefore vacate the existing facility on December 31,” a company spokesperson said.
It has been widely speculated that Transaero Engineering Ireland - which plans to expand its maintenance operations in Shannon - will take on the hangar. But it has refused to comment on what is still technically an Aer Lingus facility.
Meanwhile, Shannon’s Senator Tony Mulcahy has claimed that companies are lining up for hangar space at Shannon and measures announced in the budget this week could see construction on new hangars begin in 2013.
The Fine Gael senator said he had “received details from the Department of Finance of a seven-year Government-backed accelerated capital allowance scheme which will promote the construction of certain aviation-specific facilities at the airport”.
The development of a world-class International Aviation Services Centre at Shannon is integral to the Government’s plan to separate the airport from the DAA, with an effective date of December 31.
“The first and main requirement at Shannon is new hangar space. The Department of Finance has informed me that three hangars are needed urgently and that there are potential tenants already lined up for a further three,” said Senator Mulcahy.
“Under the plans announced by the government, it is proposed that the soon-to-be-created Shannon entity will rent the hangars at commercial rates, either to airlines or MRO companies, most of which are SMEs. I believe that the impending creation of the new entity and the planned use of existing and newly constructed hangars and ancillary facilities presents significant job creation potential in the sector,” added Senator Mulcahy.