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16 August 2007 Edition

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Aer Lingus dispute : Company trying to undermine agreed pay structures

Shannon debacle result of Aer Lingus  privatisation decision

The announcement last week by Aer Lingus that it will terminate its Shannon - Heathrow service has led to outrage and protests in the mid west region over the possibly devastating local economic and social impact of the move aswell as threatened strike action by Aer Lingus staff over the terms of working conditions at the Belfast base.
Reacting to the announcement, Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris has claimed that the Aer Lingus decision confirmed the warnings made by opponents of the privatisation of the company. The North Kerry TD said that those who supported the selling off of Aer Lingus had to take responsibility for the decision.
“Sinn Féin and the trade union movement warned that one of the consequences of privatising Aer Lingus would be that decisions inimical to the national interest would be made. Closing the Heathrow route will have potentially devastating effects on the Shannon hinterland as the London connection is vital to tourism and industry in the region’, Ferris said.
“I fully support the trade unions’ call for the decision to be reversed and for the Government to exercise its 25% share-holding in the national interest to ensure that the company is made change its mind”, he said.
On Monday, fellow Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan said he cautiously welcomed  an indication by City Jet that it was open to discussing the possibility of a new service from Shannon Airport to Charles de Gaulle Paris, but he warned against this latest potential development being used as a sop by government in the dabacle over the Aer Lingus Shannon - Heathrow service.
 “The potential of additional routes for all regional airports are of course to be welcomed. Commercial interests can only be sustained by the development of new business relationships”, Morgan said.
“City Jets indication that it is considering a potential Shannon to Paris route is possibly a good news story for Shannon however it would be wrong for this development to be lauded as a substitute for the loss of the Aer Lingus Shannon to Heathrow route.
“City Jet is a business and as such has a single primary objective, to maximise its profits. Negotiating with Shannon Airport on foot of the loss of the Shannon to Heathrow route is naturally an opportune time for any airline to negotiate a favourable financial arrangement for a new route with the Airport.
“The decision of Aer Lingus to terminate the Shannon - Heathrow service remains a significant blow to the country’s national interests and particularly to the tourism and commercial interests of the region.
“Fianna Fáil through its privatisation agenda has facilitated this financial loss to the country thus proving again that the privatisation of key public services and interests does not deliver better services, more jobs or a stronger economy.
“Sinn Féin remains committed to the Trade Union movements’ demand that government exercise its strength as a key share-holder in Aer Lingus by demanding that the company reverse its decision to close the Shannon to Heathrow route”, he said.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, Sinn Féin South Antrim MLA Mitchel McLaughlin criticised the attempt by Aer Lingus to introduce different pay structures for staff based at its new hub in Belfast and offered support for industrial action being undertaken by the IMPACT trade union.
“Aer Lingus management has attempted to present the demand of their pilots for existing terms and conditions to be honoured no matter what base the airline operates from as unreasonable”, Mclaughlin said.
“Yet it is Aer Lingus that are being difficult and trying to undermine agreed pay structures. The attempt by Aer Lingus management to create pay and conditions that are different for its workers based in the North will cause huge alarm across the island. Aer Lingus have a poor record in honouring agreed and negotiated pay agreements.
“Each and every member of society should be afforded a level playing field when it comes to workers’ rights on the island of Ireland regardless of job.
“An All-Ireland approach needs to be taken by the upper echelons of Aer Lingus. Just as Sinn Féin opposed a regional differential for the minimum wage we will also oppose any attempt by companies operating across the island of Ireland to put in place differentiated pay and working conditions.
“Common sense must prevail and Aer Lingus must stop its laissez faire attitude to pay conditions. “I support the striking staff just like any other worker regardless of pay scales. Workers’ rights are paramount” he said.

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