Aer Lin­gus by­passes union with staff let­ter

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Sunday Business - Fearghal O’Con­nor

AER Lin­gus has gone over the heads of its trade unions to di­rectly pitch to staff what it claims is a bet­ter em­ploy­ment deal that union rep­re­sen­ta­tives have walked away from.

The air­line is at­tempt­ing to win agree­ment from load­ing staff at Dublin Air­port on pro­duc­tiv­ity gains it needs ahead of the huge growth it is pre­dict­ing.

In a let­ter posted to the home ad­dress of each in­di­vid­ual staff mem­ber, the air­line claimed the union had walked out on a deal that would have de­liv­ered a ba­sic pay in­crease, bet­ter ros­ters and sus­tain­able di­rect em­ploy­ment for load­ing sec­tion staff.

The let­ter in­cluded a copy of a draft agree­ment sent to Siptu ear­lier this month.

The com­pany’s move to deal di­rectly with staff at the for­mer trade-union strong­hold comes as it also warned work­ers it’s in­stalling new CCTV cam­eras and in­tro­duc­ing ran­dom pa­trols by a se­cu­rity firm. The moves are due to con­cerns it has over what it claimed was theft by a small per­cent­age of staff “of guest prop­erty, dam­age to com­pany prop­erty and in­ter­fer­ence with col­leagues’ prop­erty”.

The Aer Lin­gus let­ter said that ne­go­ti­a­tions to agree the draft had been con­struc­tive but that the union had since walked away from a deal that would have given “more money and bet­ter ros­ters”.

“In re­cent weeks we ex­plained to your rep­re­sen­ta­tives (in great de­tail) that the cur­rent costs and op­er­at­ing model were un­com­pet­i­tive when com­pared with other ground han­dlers at Dublin,” said the let­ter to em­ploy­ees.

The air­line said it had given trade union rep­re­sen­ta­tives “ac­cess to con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion” which showed that Aer Lin­gus costs are some 50pc higher than the mar­ket.

The let­ter out­lined that Aer Lin­gus op­er­a­tions staff could ex­pect to­tal re­mu­ner­a­tion of over €60,000 com­pared to as lit­tle as €24,000 at sother Dublin based ground han­dler.

In re­sponse, Siptu wrote back to the air­line to say it was “deeply dis­ap­pointed that the com­pany have taken a de­ci­sion to by­pass Siptu and the elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives in this man­ner”.

The union said its de­ci­sion to “pause the dis­cus­sions” had come from its wider mem­ber­ship in the sec­tion. The union also crit­i­cised what it said was “the in­stal­la­tion of what our mem­bers deem to be an ex­ces­sive num­ber of CCTV cam­eras in the area they work in as well as the com­pany de­ci­sion to im­ple­ment se­cu­rity pa­trols in break ar­eas and locker rooms which af­fect our mem­bers’ down­time when on break”.

Aer Lin­gus claimed in the di­rect let­ter to staff that it would ad­dress pro­duc­tiv­ity is­sues “with­out chang­ing your terms and con­di­tions”.

“Sim­ply, all we want is that you be­come more ef­fi­cient and that we change how we op­er­ate, to be­come ‘one team’. The net out­come for you would be more money and bet­ter ros­ters, not a bad deal!”

But two days af­ter send­ing the draft agree­ment to Siptu it claimed it “re­ceived no­ti­fi­ca­tion that the rep­re­sen­ta­tives now want to put our dis­cus­sions ‘on hold’,” which, said the let­ter, was “es­sen­tially, kick­ing this can down the road”.

“This will only serve to worsen the sit­u­a­tion and drive man­age­ment to con­sider other op­tions,” the let­ter warned.

“It is not too late to reach agree­ment and it is our pref­er­ence to reach a col­lec­tive agree­ment as pro­posed to Siptu,” it said.

The doc­u­ment was “the re­sult of many meet­ings and fully de­vel­oped with your rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Their de­ci­sion to walk away from the agree­ment, and the man­ner in how that was done, was dis­re­spect­ful to the process.

“Aer Lin­gus can­not pay the best terms and con­di­tions in the mar­ket to our ground op­er­a­tions staff and at the same time to be the most in­ef­fi­cient ground op­er­a­tions team.”

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