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Aer Lingus defends internship position for ‘Air Safety Assistant’

The airline said the role advertised under the government’s JobBridge scheme would not involve overseeing safety practices.

An Aer Lingus flight takes off from Dublin
An Aer Lingus flight takes off from Dublin
Image: Julien Behal/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Updated at 8.50pm

AER LINGUS HAS said that an advertised internship position for an Air Safety Assistant would not involve any overseeing of safety management for the airline.

The former State carrier is seeking applicants for the six-month internship to work in the airline’s Air Safety Department – which the advert states “is responsible for managing the day to day operations of the airline’s flight safety”. Specified duties include “being a member of the air safety office team”, providing “support in the area of safety promotion” and “developing and updating relevant policies and procedures”.

Applicants for the position must have a university degree in communications, business or a related subject and an “excellent customer service ethic”.

The role is advertised as part of the government’s JobBridge scheme, which aims to offer the unemployed “a real opportunity to gain valuable experience” and pays €50 per week on top of social welfare benefits. Under the rules of the scheme, businesses pay nothing to any interns which they take on.

The advertisement last night sparked outrage on Twitter, with user Allan Cavanagh tweeting: “Safety doesn’t come cheap, unless you’re Aer Lingus”. Aideen Blackwood wrote: “I feel really safe flying with Aer Lingus knowing that they’re hiring an AIR SAFETY assistant through #jobbridge.”

Aer Lingus this afternoon told TheJournal.ie: “This role will afford a suitably qualified graduate a unique opportunity to gain valuable work experience and insight into the functioning of a safety department in a large organisation.” Stressing that it is proud of its safety record, the airline added: “The successful candidate will not be engaged directly in any safety management role, but instead will be assigned tasks and projects to assist the officers and investigators in their duties.”

This morning, it emerged Aer Lingus had made an operating loss of €27.8 million for the first half of 2011 after an industrial dispute with cabin crew that saw hundreds taken off the payroll.

Aer Lingus did not directly respond to an enquiry as to whether the Air Safety Assistant duties would previously have been performed by a permanent employee. One of the conditions of the JobBridge scheme is that interns cannot displace paid workers.

The airline’s statement continued:

Whilst primarily administrative in function, the candidate will gain exposure to, and insight into all aspects of the airline’s operations, through the safety department’s daily interactions, as part of its oversight responsibility.

The Aer Lingus safety department has grown in recent years.  As well as seeing growth in both its Emergency Response Planning, Health & Safety, and Operations Quality departments, all of which form part of the Airline’s integrated SMS.

The offer of an intern placement forms no part of the safety department’s strategic plan, which has as its objective to ensure the safety department maintains adequate full time staff to manage the Airline’s SMS to optimum effectiveness.

The Department of Social Protection told TheJournal.ie this evening that the internship notice “clearly states that it is the Air Safety Department that is responsible for managing the airline’s flight safety and promotion, and not the intern”.

Further information on what constitutes an internship can be found on the JobBridge website, it added.

The department also said it believes the Aer Lingus internship “offers an excellent opportunity for an individual to gain experience in the field of safety management systems and therefore increase their employability in this area”.

The closing date for applications for the internship is this Friday, 2 September.

Read more: Aer Lingus losses grow, but outlook is brighter>

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Michael Freeman

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