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Why we cannot co-operate with the new rosters

Aer Lingus cabin crew member Daniel Browne explains what working the new rosters implemented by management would mean to him and his colleagues.

Daniel Browne

I KNOW THAT some of you may or may not agree with what my colleagues and I are involved in, with regards to the dispute between cabin crew and management of Aer Lingus.

I can assure you all that IMPACT, the union representing the cabin crew currently involved in this dispute, and all of the cabin crew would like to see a speedy and happy resolution to the uncertainty that many of the traveling public have had to deal with over the last several days.

The reason why I am writing this is to show you – the public and our passengers – why we are where we are today.

Since October, IMPACT served on Aer Lingus notice of industrial action, which was the beginning of our work to rule.

This meant that, starting from 13 October 2010, the members of IMPACT cabin crew would follow directives from the union to adopt from then on – all of which were in our contract.

This continued for a good number of weeks without disruption to passengers’ travel plans.

Then on 17 January 2011, Aer Lingus published a new four week roster with unilateral changes and rules imposed upon its cabin crew.

So how is it possible for cabin crew to work within their contractual duties for 15 weeks or so, and not have flights cancelled, or cause disruption to passengers – yet when management inflicts what we believe are unfair, unworkable and discriminatory rosters on its staff, flights have been cancelled wholesale?

The company has picked a time of year when passenger numbers are typically at their quietest, for a majority of airlines – not just Aer Lingus.

There is not one valid reason for any of the flights that have been cancelled have to have been cancelled; certainly not because of an issue with cabin crew. We were all available and willing to work, but to work within our contract.

But the company decided this is not the way it wanted to operate, and unfortunately for passengers, flights were cancelled because the company turned people away who are willing and able to work.

So why we have reached the very difficult situation we are in?

The company claims that the roster changes they imposed are the only way in which flying hours of 850 per year can be achieved. Yet under the existing working conditions of cabin crew, agreed under the binding arbitration, the hours have increased from an average of 700 hours to 830 hours per year.

But it’s not just about the number of hours. This is what else the changes mean in practice:

  • Meal break entitlements have been removed from ALL European flights, which can go up to 11 hours (without delays)
  • Double shifts to the continent, i.e Dublin – Paris return then back out again to do a Dublin – Amsterdam, again not accounting for delays. Previously, doubles would usually consist of a continental European flight, and a shorter UK flight, or just two UK return flights – for example double London Heathrow or Manchester
  • Changing of duty by 3 hours on the day. Imagine arriving in work at 5am to be told you are now on a flight that departs 3 hours later and finishing 3 hours later than you had been planned for. How are parents supposed to cope with the stress and disruption to that kind of change on a daily basis?
  • Changing of duty by 4 hours the day before a planned duty .
  • Our right to request ONE weekend in every EIGHT has been removed
  • The minimum amount of days off in a rostered month has been reduced from 8 to 7.  So effectively, we work four normal five day weeks, and one six day week.
  • 26 day tour of duty: try to arrange care for family or change any commitments for this amount of time, and then only to have 2 days rest when you return.
  • Rest period after a transatlantic flight has been halved from 24 to just 12 hours; effectively meaning that crew can do an outbound flight to New York, for example, and then operate the return flight home to Dublin that same day.

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These are just some of the changes that Aer Lingus wants to bring in to effect on the new rosters. This dispute is about fairness and quality of a work / life balance which is what was promised and agreed upon.

How is this in any way fair?

I am proud to put on my uniform and fly the flag for this country, and for Aer Lingus. That to me is what we do best. It is what we have won awards for year after year. It is what keeps our passengers flying with us for so long.

If the new rosters are fully implemented, then it will be the end of the Aer Lingus you all know and love. The airline’s award winning crew will be a thing of the past – and in my opinion it will be the end of Aer Lingus.

What Aer Lingus is doing flies in the face of  its publicly published letter to the public, which stated:

We believe our Cabin Crew are amongst the best in the world. They provide an excellent service to you our customers and have done so throughout our 75 year history, as ambassadors for the airline, and indeed for Ireland. Our cabin crew deserve appreciation from the company for their flexibility and dedication and I would like to publicly thank them for all they have done to keep the shamrock flying proudly throughout the globe for many years.

Where is the appreciation to us for keeping the shamrock flying?

Daniel Browne is a cabin crew member with Aer Lingus.

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Daniel Browne

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