A ROW between Aer Lingus and IMPACT over the numbers needed to crew transatlantic services has escalated to the point where almost 90 jobs are at risk as the company contemplates closing its cabin crew base in Shannon.
The airline earlier this year announced that it was extending flights from Shannon to Boston and New York to year-round but this would require smaller aircraft. A deal to wet lease Boeing 757s was reached with Dublin-based firm ACL. While this firm was to provide the pilots, Aer Lingus would use cabin crew based at Shannon and had hired an extra 30 trainees.
But a dispute between IMPACT and the airline over staffing levels needed to crew the 757s has seen the training programme stopped and the airline issuing a note to staff that it now considers the cabin crew base at Shannon “unviable” and that all the jobs on the transatlantic services could be outsourced.
Aer Lingus had sought to crew the flights with four people whereas the union said industry best practice was for a minimum of five staff on long haul flights.
While the services themselves are unaffected, 87 cabin crew in Shannon are now at risk of redundancy.
Aer Lingus said it had been left with no option after being informed by IMPACT that it would not agree to crew the 757s due to start operating out of Shannon in January.
“We were obliged to instruct ACL that they should start recruiting to crew the aircraft. As a direct result, Aer Lingus, rather than growing its cabin crew employee numbers, will now have a surplus of cabin crew. We have therefore had to notify a group of 30 recently hired cabin crew trainees that their training has been cancelled with immediate effect, as the roles for which they were training will no longer exist in Aer Lingus. We deeply regret having to take this action. It was our express desire that the aircraft would be crewed by our excellent Shannon-based crew and we are extremely disappointed that this will now not be the case,” a company spokesman said.
But IMPACT’s Michael Landers rejected the company’s claims that the union was being inflexible on crewing the aircraft.
“We have made consistent efforts to have discussions with the company on the appropriate crew levels for this new service. Management has attempted to bully its own staff into submission with an ultimatum, and then slammed the door on discussions when it announced it would outsource crew,” Mr Landers said.
He added the company had “shown a willingness to play with peoples livelihoods to make a point, as it cast out a group of 30 cabin crew trainees two weeks ago to pave the way for its outsourcing plan. This action was, again, unnecessary in addition to being unfair”.
“Now, the deputy chief executive has turned up at Shannon to crush the livelihoods of loyal staff for whom Shannon is both a workplace and a part of the world they call home.”
A ballot for industrial action - not only on outsourcing in Shannon but on rostering and what IMPACT said were breaches of existing agreements - was due to close this Wednesday.
Fianna Fail transport spokesman and TD for Clare Timmy Dooley has urged both sides to return to the negotiating table to save the jobs in Shannon.