Aer Lingus ground staff have demanded a “substantial” no-strings-attached pay increase from the airline as part of a new round of wage negotiations that has begun at the airline.
he demand comes at a time when sources say Aer Lingus is struggling to hire and retain staff for its ground-handling operation at Dublin Airport.
Staffing shortages – in the boarding area of the airport in particular – mean that arriving aircraft are at times forced to wait long periods for trained staff to operate air bridges and gates at the airline’s main hub, it is understood.
The problems on the ramp at Dublin come against the backdrop of industrial relations tensions rising once again at Aer Lingus.
Staffing difficulties at the airline had been largely overshadowed all summer by acute issues at airport operator DAA.
The new pay negotiations are likely to be hard fought, as union negotiators seek good news for staff who are in no mood for compromise after the difficulties they faced during the pandemic.
Management last week met the Aer Lingus trade union group to discuss pay.
“During the meeting we reiterated our position – that the positive financial outlook of the company and the sharp increase in the cost of living for our members merits a substantial increase in pay,” according to a memo sent by Siptu to Aer Lingus ground staff.
“The unions also stated that they will not consider any cost offsetting measures as part of this claim,” wrote Siptu aviation-sector organiser Niall Phillips.
Some flights had been forced to wait as long as 90 minutes for a gate to disembark passengers
“The company has agreed to come back to us with several dates to be set aside so concentrated negotiations can take place. The company has also been asked to put a formal offer to us at our next meeting,” he wrote, promising to keep staff updated “as events unfold”.
Unappealing rosters and low rates of starting pay were blamed by a number of sources as reasons why the airline was finding it difficult to hire and retain staff for its Dublin ground operation.
One well-informed airline source said some flights had been 90 minutes waiting for a gate to disembark passengers.
Recent ramp delays had been caused by a constraint in the number of parking stands for aircraft at Dublin, and were also caused at times by weather problems – both in Ireland and elsewhere – and by the knock-on impact of congestion at airports such as London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol.
But those issues were being exacerbated by a lack of ground-handling staff in Dublin to deal immediately with delayed flights – on top of the flights that were arriving on time – leading to long waits in landed airplanes for newly arrived passengers.
Aer Lingus declined to comment on ramp delays but a spokeswoman said it “will be engaging in discussion with representatives of employee groups on pay related issues over the coming months”.
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