Thursday 27 October 2016

No clear blue sky for Aer Lingus as Siptu raises concerns over deal

Aer Lingus Airbus A320 landing
Aer Lingus Airbus A320 landing

SIPTU president Jack O’Connor has warned that Labour’s support of the controversial Aer Lingus sale will be considered carefully by his members before deciding on whether to back the party ahead of the next general election.

Mr O’Connor insisted the current offer from airline giant IAG raised “serious concerns” for his members, who fear the company’s boss Willie Walsh will seek to outsource jobs once the deal is sealed.

The warning follows angry clashes in the Dail as Opposition politicians accused the Government of seeking to sign the deal into law without proper scrutiny or debate.

Dublin North TD Clare Daly said the IAG bid was not in the best interests of the country or Aer Lingus workers. And last night, Fianna Fail sought to suspend the debate following the emergence of an internal Aer Lingus report that suggested slashing jobs at the airline.

Meanwhile, the Impact trade union criticised the “unseemly party atmosphere” around the sale and called on Aer Lingus management to give more assurances to staff.

READ MORE: Dubliner Willie Walsh has been flying high since his teens

“Workers woke up to a circus atmosphere with Willie Walsh in town to sell his bright shining new deal,” Impact spokesman Niall Shanahan said.

“The Government has given its seal of approval and we are 24 hours away from a vote that will seal Aer Lingus’s fate.”

Labour believes the unions are posturing and will eventually agree to the improved deal offered by IAG, according to a senior party source.

However, Mr O’Connor said his union’s backing for Joan Burton’s Labour Party at the next general election will be decided at Siptu’s conference in October and the Aer Lingus sale will influence that decision.

The union’s support could prove crucial for Ms Burton’s future leadership as the party struggles to regain public confidence after four years in Government with Fine Gael.

After months of wrangling over the deal, Labour agreed to sign off on the €335m sale of the Government’s remaining share in what was once a price prized State asset. Most Labour TDs, who vehemently opposed the initial offer tabled by IAG, backed down and agreed to support the new deal which offered guarantees on jobs and on the Heathrow landing slots .

However, Clare TD Michael McNamara could face being ejected from the Labour Party if he votes against the deal today. He told colleagues he is still undecided and has sought further assurances surrounding the guarantees over the slots.

Announcing the new package on Tuesday, Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe revealed around 50 jobs, mostly in administration, will be lost at the company’s HQ in North Dublin next year. However, Mr Donohoe pledged the takeover would result in the creation of more than 600 jobs in the next five years.

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