Aer Lingus yesterday followed British Airways by announcing large-scale redundancies and other cost savings in what it described as a move necessary for survival.
The Irish flag carrier said it would cut 676 jobs and the salaries of other staff, arguing that it was too inefficient to survive the economic downturn without the changes.
A spokesman insisted Aer Lingus was in no danger of going out of business in the short term but admitted its long-haul business was under pressure. The Irish workers' union SIPTU said the moves were "extreme and draconian" and called a national meeting of its shop stewards for next week.
Aer Lingus revealed that 489 staff would be offered voluntary redundancy this year and another 187 jobs would go by 2011. It plans to cut the salaries of staff paid more than €35,000 a year, and executive pay by 10 per cent.
Aer Lingus's announcement comes after British Airways said it was planning to shed 1,700 jobs , freeze salaries for two years and alter work practices.
A spokesman claimed that no staff would be forced to leave, saying 1,000 were expected to take voluntary redundancy and 3,000 had asked to go part-time.
Despite the airline's assurances, unions leaders reacted angrily to the news yesterday.
"BA is trying to impose this settlement on its staff, and it shows the management has no interest in compromise and prefers conflict," said a spokeswoman for Unite.