Aer Lingus blames pilots union as it fails to land deal

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The Independent Online

The chief executive of Aer Lingus has launched a scathing attack on his pilots after talks to agree an "urgent" turnaround of the airline broke down, threatening its future.

Christoph Müller was left seething after he failed to secure agreement with the Irish pilots' union for the group's transformation plan, saying the union's stance would see hundreds more jobs lost. He slammed its "very high compensation" demands and its offering of inadequate cost savings.

He said most staff understood that "Aer Lingus needs to make significant and urgent change if it is to have an independent and successful financial future". The plan had included cutting 676 staff and pay reductions for those on salaries of more than €35,000 (£32,000), but Mr Müller said total job cuts could now soar past 1,000.

The overhaul would allow the company to keep staff numbers "closer to current levels. However, in the absence of real cost savings being delivered from all employee groups, we will have to resort to other measures," he said.

The board and management said that without an agreement Aer Lingus would have to reduce capacity, further cutting loss-making routes and using fewer aircraft, "which in turn will lead to additional redundancies beyond those included in the transformation plan. It is very likely that these redundancies will commence immediately and will be compulsory."

This came after an extraordinary general meeting, in which he revealed: "We have narrowed the gap with most union groups on the achievement of sustainable savings, and this has brought us very close to signature with them," he said. "The exception to this promising outcome is the Irish Airline Pilots Association (IALPA) and, to a lesser extent, cabin crew."

Aer Lingus said IALPA had offered "only temporary savings over a short few years" instead of sustainable structural savings. "Aer Lingus was asked for very high compensation in return. Our pilot compensation and productivity remains out of line with the compensation and productivity of our competitors," the company said.

"On this occasion it has not been possible to reach agreement with all our employee groups, and we must now take whatever actions are necessary to stabilise the business, in the interests of Aer Lingus, its customers, the majority of its employees and its shareholders," it added.