Fresh bid to end dispute as 200 cabin crew now off the payroll
CHAOS: Mediators step in as more flights cancelled
AER LINGUS employees were meeting face to face with management today in an attempt to resolve the bitter jobs dispute.
But passengers continued to be hit with cancellations as the strike entered its 12th day.
The intervention by employers' group IBEC and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), who offered to mediate in the row, was seen as a breakthrough.
Cabin crew members of the Impact union and Aer Lingus management confirmed they would attend the talks.
Impact welcomed the invitation and said it was "ready to engage in the process as soon as it could be convened".
But while Aer Lingus accepted the invitation, it warned that it remained committed to the implementation of the Greenfield Restructuring Programme -- the €97m cost-cutting plan.
Several thousand passengers were affected when dozens of flights were cancelled across recent days.
Aer Lingus was forced to cancel 10pc of their flights when cabin crew refused to work new rosters that increase their time in the air from 830 hours to 850 hours a year.
The former flag carrier took more than 200 cabin crew off the payroll and threatened to sack them if they did not accept the rosters.
Employees said that the new rosters put additional pressure on family commitments such as finding child care at short notice.
But Aer Lingus has said the new rosters are essential in achieving an increase in flying hours for cabin crew agreed as part of an overall cost-saving plan at the airline known as Greenfield.
Union officials asked the Labour Court to step in a week ago. But Aer Lingus vowed not to ask another third-party mediator to step in as it had already been through over 15 months of talks.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions' general secretary David Begg and IBEC director Brendan McGinty said they had decided to issue the invitation "in view of the serious nature of the dispute" in an attempt to find a resolution.
They said senior officials on both sides would brief them today on the roster issue "with a view to seeing if any assistance can be offered towards finding a resolution".
Aer Lingus believes the increase in hours is the cabin crew's main objection despite their agreement to fly for 850 hours in a ballot last year.
Minister for Labour Affairs Dara Calleary last night also welcomed the intervention aimed at resolving the dispute.
But Labour Party's transport spokesman Joe Costello said that the Government, which retains a 25pc share in Aer Lingus on behalf of the people, has been seriously at fault.
"The dispute has gone on for far too long with serious repercussions for the cabin crew, many of whom have been taken of the payroll, and for Aer Lingus, which has lost much business and incurred unnecessary costs," he said.
"Preoccupied with its own convulsions the Government has failed to monitor the escalation of the dispute and use its position of responsibility to seek third party mediation."