Aer Lingus redundancies could be fewer than expected following talks between Siptu and management

Aer Lingus and Ryanair planes which have been grounded at Dublin Airport today, due to travel restrictions imposed to curtail the spread of COVID-19. Photograph: Leon Farrell /
By Sean O'Riordan
Defence Correspondent

The 500 redundancies initially sought by Aer Lingus for its 'Covid Crisis Recovery Plan' could turn out to be fewer following management talks with Siptu about work practices changes.

The union represents about a third of the airline's 4,500-strong workforce at Cork, Dublin and Shannon airports and is to ballot its members on recommendations following the two-party talks. Siptu workers are mainly ground crew and support staff.

If Siptu members ballot to accept the plan, it is anticipated that job losses will be less than first suggested.

It's understood that airline management now intends to enter into similar talks with its other unions — Connect, representing craft workers; and Fórsa, representing pilots and aircrews.

The new round of talks on redundancies began last week after the three unions failed to agree to a recovery plan, the deadline for acceptance of which was June 15.

Management withdrew the document after Fórsa insisted it would have to ballot cabin crew and this resulted in the deadline being missed. The company reacted by saying it would proceed with plans for the 500 redundancies and reducing most of its employees' pay from the current 50% of pre-Covid-19 payments to 30%. Management also signalled that they intended to force through work practice reforms.

Siptu said that around 270 of the originally planned redundancies would have involved its members.

SIPTU divisional organiser, Karan O'Loughlin, said that of the 500 redundancies announced by Aer Lingus last week, 270 would have involved SIPTU members. Ms O'Loughlin said the new round of talks with Aer Lingus management would mean fewer redundancies and said she anticipates that compulsory redundancies would not now be required.

Ms O'Loughlin said that original provisions for the recovery of over-payments or 'deficit hours', which had worried staff  — when the airline retains pay at 50% of pre-Covid rates despite activity falling below half of normal working hours — contained better protections for her members. She added that it is expected her members will ballot on the new recommendations within the next two weeks.

The airline issued a statement saying it had held constructive discussions with Siptu in recent days on work practice changes and pay issues: "We welcome the fact that a document has now been agreed and will be put to a ballot of SIPTU members. We await the outcome. Discussions have not taken place with other unions. We are however commencing a process of consultation with unions on anticipated redundancies in Aer Lingus."

Meanwhile, the airline has warned that clarity is needed on the lifting of the 14-day quarantine requirement for arriving passengers and travel restrictions prior to July 9.

It said there is no clarity yet on which countries the Government will designate for so-called airbridges, which seek to provide travel to countries with similarly low Covid-19 issues to Ireland. Aer Lingus believes that these should be established to the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and Britain.

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