iNVEZZ.com, Friday, December 6: Aer Lingus Group Plc’s (LON:AERL) biggest trade union – the Irish Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) – is threatening to ballot for industrial action after talks broke down over a shortfall in a staff pension scheme, a union official said today. The scheme of which workers at Aer Lingus and the Dublin Airport Authority are members, has a shortfall of €780 million.
Despite Aer Lingus’ stance that it is not legally obliged to refund the scheme, the Dublin-based airline has offered to make a one-off payment of €140 million to the scheme. SIPTU, however, sees this figure as insufficient.
In today’s trading Aer Lingus shares have declined about one percent to €1.31 as of 11:09 UTC.
SIPTU will be balloting this weekend over possible industrial action to put pressure on Aer Lingus to
resolve the pension crisis. The potential strike, however, will not affect travels during the Christmas period.
“We will ballot for industrial action, but there will be no disruption of passenger services over Christmas,” a spokesman for SIPTU said today, adding that the union hopes to force the airline to “engage properly” in the negotiations.
It is understood that SIPTU President Jack O’Connor has authorised the holding of the ballots at Dublin and Shannon Airport.
Aer Lingus responded that the union’s action and pension demands were “completely unreasonable and unacceptable”.
“Aer Lingus simply cannot accede to Siptu’s demands because this would require Aer Lingus to breach its legal obligations,” the company said in a statement to the Irish Stock Exchange today.
The airline said that it may be forced to take legal action against SIPTU over any losses likely to be incurred as a result of a strike.
Last year SIPTU threatened industrial action over the same pension deficit, but later returned to the talks.
Earlier this week, Aer Lingus Chief Executive Officer Christoph Mueller told employees that they will receive a 2013 pay increment and that this will be reflected in their December paychecks.
**As of 11:09 UTC buy Aer Lingus shares at €1.32**
**As of 11:09 UTC sell Aer Lingus shares at €1.30**