Aer Lingus aircraft loaders at Dublin Airport are to ballot for industrial action after fears arose over outsourcing.
The move comes after staff accused management of bringing in outside trainers from Manchester to train Dublin-based workers on aircraft push-backs rather than using its own locally based training department, according to well-placed sources.
Tensions were also heightened at the airline’s Cork base after an independent review of staff relations there raised “significant concerns”.
In Dublin, loaders agreed to the ballot and decided that in the meantime they would turn down any extra duties such as overtime, said the sources.
“Aer Lingus has not received any formal notification in relation to any such ballot. Aer Lingus is engaged in a process with Siptu on a number of operational matters and both parties have agreed to accept an invite to the WRC,” said an Aer Lingus spokeswoman, responding to a query from the Sunday Independent about the ballot and the outsourcing fears.
A union committee meeting on Tuesday is expected to ratify the process and make arrangements for a ballot. Siptu said it had no comment to make.
Meanwhile, a review of industrial relations practice in Cork raised serious concerns about “a high level of mistrust and polarisation” among Aer Lingus ground staff following a row over holidays.
An official from the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) conducted a series of individual interviews with ramp staff and managers and raised “significant concerns”, according to a letter sent to senior Siptu officials by Aer Lingus management.
The review followed a dispute between the airline and some staff at the airport about annual leave entitlements. Siptu had requested that the WRC conduct a review of industrial relations practice and procedure in January.
Aer Lingus wrote to Siptu expressing “serious concerns” about the WRC report and the situation at Cork, which it said “continues to deteriorate”.
“A high level of polarisation and mistrust prevails and what is striking from an industrial relations context is that the mistrust is essentially an issue with the staff group itself,” said the WRC report. “This mistrust extends to poor union representation which is divided on partisan lines. I would describe union representation as in effect broken down.”
The WRC official wrote that there “is a fundamental inability by the union group to develop cohesive and agreed positions of relevance to all if not most members essential to engaging realistically and credibly with management on practically any issue. This is evidenced by the situation regarding annual leave issue which in any other workplace would be resolved by agreement and taking on board to the maximum extent the concerns and interest of all.”
In the letter to Siptu, Aer Lingus employee relations manager Sharon Morris said staff in Cork had questioned the company’s decision “to continue to engage with the current [trade union] committee in circumstances where they maintain the current committee do not in their opinion represent the entire operative section in Cork and do not have a mandate for the changes proposed”.
The airline said it had “repeatedly sought to encourage this group of staff to continue to engage with the process and in particular to engage with Siptu to address their concerns”.
A Siptu spokesman declined to comment. An Aer Lingus spokeswoman said an annual leave arrangement had been put in place and it “continues to engage with local representatives and union officials on a broad range of issues related to a limited number of staff”.
Sunday Indo Business