Aer Lingus trade unions have reacted angrily to the airline’s plan to cut a fifth of its workforce in a €97m (£90m) cost-cutting programme that is aimed at saving Ireland’s former state-owned carrier.
The company, which has been hit by falling fares and higher fuel bills, is launching a two-stage “transformational restructuring plan” – its latest bid to return to profit.
Aer Lingus shares, which have risen 15 per cent in the past week in anticipation of the announcement, firmed 1 cent to 73 cents.
The plan involves 676 redundancies, including 489 among pilots, cabin crew and ground staff, and 187, or 40 per cent, of its back-office staff. Christoph Mueller, chief executive, said: “We do not have enough work for all the people employed by Aer Lingus.”
Salaries for those earning above €35,000 are to be cut by 10 per cent. The company, in which the Irish government retains a 25.4 per cent stake, is also looking for pension cost savings and revised work practices.
Aer Lingus, which reported pre-tax losses of €119.7m in the year to December 31, said that it “cannot survive in a situation where staff are paid more and operate less efficiently than in comparable positions at its peers”.
The company, which has fended off two takeover bids from Ryanair since it was privatised in 2006, has embarked on a six-week consultation process with staff, but warned it would press on with compulsory redundancies if necessary.
Mr Mueller, who took over last month, said the company would listen to constructive alternative proposals, but it “cannot compromise on the savings level”. Colm Barrington, chairman, said the plan had been unanimously agreed by the board, which includes David Begg, general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
But Gerry McCormack, national industrial secretary of the Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union, described the job loss proposal as “extreme and draconian and an over-reaction to the current economic climate”.
Christina Carney, assistant general secretary of Impact, which represents cabin crew, said: “We cannot keep propping up this airline.”
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