Ireland: Re-nationalise Aer Lingus

Defend decent jobs and conditions

Aer Lingus (Ireland’s major airline) management has announced a vicious cull of quality jobs in Dublin, Cork and Shannon under the guise that they need to cut costs to survive. This is a total scam.

Over the past ten years, Aer Lingus made €275 million profits. In the first half of this year, revenue and passenger numbers in the company rose by 10%, while staff costs per passenger only rose by 1%. Profits, however, are being squeezed by the rise in the price of oil, with a 50% hike in the company’s fuel bill leading to a projected loss of €23 million in 2008. This and this alone has led to the company’s projected losses.

The price of oil is affecting all sectors of the industry and the economy, and for a company with over €800 million in cash reserves, it’s hardly a crisis. Instead, it’s a convenient cover for a massive attack on jobs and conditions, that has been underway over the past number of years. This is the race to the bottom – it is Irish Ferries part 2.

It is the chance to replace relatively decent, permanent, pensionable jobs with insecure, minimum wage, contract employment. The jobs are all necessary, the airline will continue to grow, as air travel remains the key mode of international transport. People will have to get food on the planes, get checked in, have their bags loaded, and the planes cleaned. The only thing that will be different is the terms and conditions of those doing the work, which they want to outsource to low wage employers, so that the shareholders who were given this company for nothing can pocket an even greater share of the profits.

This is robbery. For over the past ten years Aer Lingus workers have secured hundreds of millions in profits. Productivity has increased by 340%, vicious cost cutting programs have already been implemented. But it’s never enough. This is corporate greed, for which the government is responsible, for its privatisation of the airline.

Now as a result over 1,000 jobs are threatened on Dublin’s Northside, and hundreds more in Cork and Shannon. Shannon is being decimated. This is no crisis, it is a deliberate ploy, which started with the axing of the Heathrow route from Shannon last year. Gone is the role of a national airline, which played a key role in regional development. Now it’s all about profit and to hell with the workers who built the airline over 70 years.

Where’s the government intervention to protect these jobs? The privatisation of Aer Lingus has been a disaster, and the government should immediately re-nationalise the company and only pay out compensation on the basis of proven need.

Enough is enough. If they get away with this, it is the end of decency in employment at the airport. The Airport authorities will follow suit. A secure permanent job with decent pay and conditions will be a thing of the past. It’s time to make a stand. The Socialist Party fully supports Aer Lingus workers’ defence of their jobs and calls on all other workers in unions and in the communities to mobilise to stop the race to the bottom.

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