Belfast Telegraph

Aer Lingus cancels flights amid row

Aer Lingus has been forced to cancel a dozen flights as a two-week row over cabin crew rosters showed no signs of a resolution.

Some 175 staff were written to, warning they will be sacked if they do not meet the controversial new working arrangements.

Opposition parties called for management and trade union chiefs at Impact to agree to go to the Labour Court to settle the dispute.

An Aer Lingus spokeswoman said six round trips to Britain or mainland Europe on high-frequency routes were pulled from schedules.

"Where possible, cancellations will be confined to routes with a high-frequency schedule," she said. "This is to enable customers to be brought to their desired destination on the same day, on another direct flight."

Aer Lingus, which is hiring aircraft - including some from Ryanair - to maintain schedules, said cancellations amount to less than 10% of the total flights for the day. The cancelled flights affect Manchester, Prague, Dusseldorf and Amsterdam.

Simon Coveney, Fine Gael transport spokesman, claimed the dispute was putting the future of the company at stake. He said: "The leadership of Impact should sit down with senior Aer Lingus management, face to face, and agree an acceptable compromise that both sides can work with. The Irish economy has enough problems to deal with."

Joe Costello, Labour transport spokesman, said the dispute was a colossal cost to workers and the airline. "The uncertainty that the dispute is causing in terms of attracting customers and generating business is undermining an already-weak aviation industry. It is not too late to step back from the brink," said Mr Costello, who urged Aer Lingus to agree to let the Labour Court rule on the dispute.

Impact chiefs said airline management was entirely to blame for further cancellations. Union spokesman Bernard Harbor said their members have been reporting for duty each day and were willing to work. And he claimed the hiring of planes to fill gaps in schedules was costing 400,000 euro a day.

Impact claims new rosters will drastically hit the family lives of cabin crew. In one case it warned staff could arrive for work on a 7am flight only for the roster to be changed at the last minute and the working day pushed back three hours. Members are also angry over cuts in the number of rostered days off a month by one, to seven, and the end to an existing right to request one weekend off duty every eight weeks.

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