Union talks continue as Aer Lingus tackles pension crisis

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Aer Lingus will continue talks with trade union representatives this week in an attempt to solve its long-running pension crisis.

Meetings are scheduled for 15 and 16 October between the airline and union financial advisers to pore over the carrier's plans to plug a shortfall of €748 million ($968 million) in its pension fund. A further round of talks is due to take place on 18 October at the Irish Labour Relations Commission.

Negotiations have been ongoing since 2011 but seem no closer to solving the crisis surrounding the pension scheme, which is jointly run with the Dublin Airport Authority.

According to the SIPTU union, which represents the majority of ground staff and some cabin crew at the airline, the talks have now broken down and industrial action may follow.

It says Aer Lingus refused to meet directly with employee representatives at a meeting on 11 October. Dermot O'Loughlin, SIPTU organiser, says: "Local representatives sought the opportunity to meet with the management side to tease out the specifics of the company's proposal. The company refused to meet and only provided a three-quarter page note entitled 'Proposal Summary' which was bereft of detail.

"It is the view of the pension committee that Aer Lingus has chosen to deliberately abandon all meaningful and reasonable negotiations to resolve the pension crisis. Our members are angry and disillusioned at the discourteous behaviour of the Aer Lingus management team."

However, Aer Lingus disagrees with SIPTU's "misleading" statement. It says it is "fully committed" to finding a solution and it "continues to engage in the process". Other unions involved in the negotiations include Impact, Unite, Mandate and the TEEU.