2 March 2006 Edition

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Nuacht na nOibrithe

BY Justin Moran

Sinn Féin meet with SIPTU over Aer Lingus privatisation

A Sinn Féin delegation met SIPTU representatives on Tuesday to discuss working together against Government plans to sell off Aer Lingus.

Speaking after the meeting, Seán Crowe TD, party spokesperson on transport, remained clear on the job of work ahead. "The reality is that this government is clearly set on selling off Aer Lingus despite clear evidence from the Eircom debacle that privatisation leads to higher costs and increased prices for customers.

"It is only a couple of months since the Irish Ferries dispute exposed the inevitable consequence of the free market privatisation agenda that followed the sale of B&I. Here we have a profitable, successful national airline that as an island nation we must see as a basic strategic resource."

Unions are demanding an emergency meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport in the belief that the Coalition intends bringing the proposed sale forward in this Dáil session. They expressed major concerns about workers' pensions, retention of staff and the lack of information from the Government about the detail of their proposals to the Sinn Féin delegation, which Seán Crowe pledged to raise in the Dáil.

That SIPTU seems to be gearing up for a fight is evident from meetings planned for Thursday in Dublin where Shop Stewards from Cork, Dublin and Shannon will hear reports from Union officials and Aer Lingus advisors.

SIPTU's National Industrial Secretary, Michael Halpenny said that, "even with a Government decision on the privatisation imminent, the situation with regard to the pension deficit is still unclear.

"Management have only now forwarded a copy of the strategic business plan to the Union - well over a month after they said they would let us have it.

"Significant elements of the current business plan - including the numbers of permanent jobs - remain unresolved.

"We will have a full discussion with our Shop Stewards about the implications of any decision by the Government which affects our members' terms and conditions of employment and exactly what measures we need to take in order to protect them."

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