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Aer Lingus ground crew reject structural changes as airline warns of 'profound' pandemic effect

Cabin crew members similarly rejected a pay freeze in recent days.
Sep 21st 2021, 6:37 PM 17,182 17

AER LINGUS GROUND crew have rejected proposed structural changes put forward by the company amid ongoing pressure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ground crew turned down the proposal today days after cabin crew members rejected a similar ballot, voting against a pay freeze for the next several years.

Among staff hired on post-2009 contracts, 257 of 325 rejected the proposal. Of 199 ground staff on contracts from pre-2009, 174 voted against the measures.

A Covid Recovery Agreement published by Aer Lingus and trade union Siptu at the start of the month outlined that the pandemic has had a “profound effect” on the airline and that the “challenge now faced is many times worse than anything we have experienced previously and will take a number of years to recover from”.

The document set out that there would be a pay freeze until December 2024 with no pay increases during that time and that no discretionary annual vouchers would be issued.

The sick leave policy for new entrants would provide for no sick days during the first six months; three weeks’ certified and two days’ uncertified leave after the probationary period; six weeks’ certified and two days’ uncertified for between one and three years’ service; and up to 13 weeks on full pay followed by 39 weeks at half pay for over three years of service.

A statement from Siptu said its members employed by Aer Lingus have voted by 82% to reject the proposals.

Siptu sector organiser Niall Phillips said: “Prior to this ballot union representatives and Organisers engaged with management at the company concerning changes it wished to implement due to the losses the company incurred during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our members have clearly rejected what was proposed to them.”

The union’s organiser for the transport, energy, aviation and construction division, Karan O Loughlin, said both Aer Lingus workers and the company itself need to “have the same opportunity to recover” from the impact of the pandemic.

“Permanent cuts to workers’ terms and conditions is not the way to achieve this. The sort of one sided recovery which was proposed by the company is not acceptable to our members and is clearly not the way forward.”

In a statement to The Journal, Aer Lingus said it “was advised that Siptu members rejected the change proposals that were put to them in a ballot”.

“The proposals were the result of months of engagement and consultation in which the serious challenges facing the business, including the need for structural change, were clearly outlined,” it said.

“The effects of the pandemic have been prolonged and are ongoing and the requirement for immediate and structural change is urgent. Over the coming days Aer Lingus will communicate to Siptu and employees setting out what the company will do to address these challenges.”

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Last week, the airline’s cabin crew were told they faced “imminent” temporary lay-offs as they rejected a ballot on the structural changes.

Aer Lingus said its voluntary severance programme is to close and that no further severance offers will be made under the scheme. 

Former Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger said this evening that “despite threats of outsourcing and layoffs, Aer Lingus ground staff have voted to reject management austerity package”.

She said it was a “real sign that workers aren’t going to roll over and be reduced to poverty to pay for a global pandemic”.

In May, Aer Lingus told its ground operations crew at Cork Airport that would be put on temporary lay-offs from 12 September until 22 November while the airport’s runway was reconstructed.

Siptu’s Neil McGowan said the workers, who would not have qualified for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, were “extremely disappointed” and had already “been on significantly reduced earnings throughout the pandemic”.

However, the airline later said that it would not lay-off the workers on the assurance that the government would extend its Employee Wage Subsidy Scheme.

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Lauren Boland

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