INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
1. Delta code share alliance.
2. In March, 1996, the Company announced the conclusion of a strategic alliance with Delta, which was provided for under the 1993 "Strategy for the Future". The alliance provides for joint marketing on flight EI105/104 between Dublin and New York, and on EI111/112 between Shannon and New York. On flight EI105/104 Delta must block-book 40 seats as part of a "hard block" arrangement, which does not apply to EI111/112.
The dispute between the parties concerns Delta's requirement to assign one Delta cabin crew member to flight EI105/104. The Company claims that the Delta cabin crew member must be fully involved in all in-flight service duties, must occupy a crew seat and must form part of the agreed staff complement of 11 crew (10 Aer Lingus and 1 Delta is proposed). The Union proposes that the Delta cabin crew member acts as a "flag carrier" only and occupies a passenger seat, except when fully booked, when she/he may occupy a crew seat. The cabin crew complement must also remain at 11 Aer Lingus staff.
A conciliation conference was held on 2nd April, 1996 under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, at which an interim arrangement was proposed by the Industrial Relations Officer as follows :-
- "Accordingly I propose the following. Given the urgency expressed and the commencement date of 1 May, 1996:
Until the end of September, 1996 the Delta crew member should act as a "flag-carrier" on EI 105/104, and will not be part of the operating crew. He/she will not be counted as part of the minimum safety crew numbers and will not substitute for Aer Lingus Operating Crew.
During this five month period discussions should continue with a view to conclusion by commencement of Winter Schedule 1996/97.
If no agreement can be concluded at this stage, the services of the L.R.C. remain available to assist the parties, if required.
The Company will utilise and observe the normal industrial relations procedures, including a reasonable time (as clarified by SIPTU's letter of March 25th) for both sides to consider the final outcome at the conclusion of the process".
The proposal was accepted by the Company, and by the Cabin Crew Committee who recommended the proposal for acceptance. It was subsequently balloted on and was rejected by the workers. The Company, however, implemented the arrangement on 1st May, 1996 and, following a ballot for industrial action, the Union served notice on the Company of a "work to rule" to commence on 4th June, 1996. The Company then placed all staff on protective notice. A second conciliation conference took place on 5th June, 1996, before which the parties agreed to 'stand down' both the industrial action and the protective notice. As agreement could not be reached, the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on 6th June, 1996 in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on 7th June, 1996.
3. 1. Employees made many sacrifices under the terms of the Cahill Plan, including 1,500 job losses and extensive changes in working conditions and in procedural agreements. Management's proposals are intended to "outsource" cabin crew jobs, which is contrary to the Cahill Plan.
2. Although opposed to a Delta crew member in any capacity other than as a "flag carrier", the Union is prepared to make the following major concessions :-
(i) The staff complement should comprise 11 Aer Lingus and 1 Delta cabin crew member.
(ii) Delta crew members may take on limited duties to provide a Delta service to Delta passengers only. They may participate in boarding and disembarking passengers in Premier class, serve champagne and orange juice in Premier class, make announcements and distribute Delta documentation, and monitor the economy cabin during duty free services, but they may not form part of the operating crew.
(iii) The Delta cabin crew member should occupy a crew seat only after all revenue passenger seats have been accommodated.
3. Regardless of any increase in Delta passenger numbers, only 1 Delta cabin crew member may be permitted. This arrangement should apply to flight EI105/104 only and should not apply to any other transatlantic route, now or in the future.
4. 1. The strategic alliance with Delta is of vital importance as it guarantees sales of seats throughout the year, strengthens the Company's competitive position, presents low-risk expansion opportunities and cargo commercial opportunities, provides access to Delta's world-wide network and Skymiles Programme and may provide "spin-off" contracts in ground handling, catering, maintenance and information technology.
2. The Company guarantees that no cabin crew jobs will be lost as a result of the Delta agreement, which provides for only one Delta cabin crew member on board flight EI105/104. The agreement is not "outsourcing" and, in fact, underpins Aer Lingus jobs.
3. As part of the agreement, the Delta crew member must be involved in a full-service delivery role to passengers on board the aircraft, including bar and meal service in both Economy and Premier Cabins. She/he must occupy a crew seat as a fully trained crew member in safety and emergency procedures, both for safety and financial reasons. The Delta crew member must also be included in the agreed cabin crew complement of eleven.
The Court held a hearing into this dispute with both parties present and subsequently met the parties separately to investigate further their positions. It was clear to the Court that much of the problem arose due to uncertainty on the Union side as to management's long-term objectives. There were also complaints about what was described as "new management style" adopted subsequent to the implementation of the Cahill Plan. Management, for its part, expressed surprise that the staff should have this perception and outlined to the Court the various consultative processes it engaged in.
The Court does not consider that it should make a judgement on the situation, but it is of the view that if this situation, whether it be factual or perceived, is allowed to continue it can only damage relations even further and consequently recommends that it be rectified as a matter of urgency. The Court, therefore, urges both parties to jointly examine the existing procedures for internal communications and consultations. Accepting management’s right to manage, the Court, nevertheless, is of the view that the Company needs to examine its method of announcing and implementing change in working practices which may arise subsequent to commercial decisions. The Union, for its part, must accept that changes in the Aviation Industry globally will bring with them a necessity for on-going change in Aer Lingus if it is to meet the challenges of the future.
The Court’s findings and recommendation on the specific items in dispute are set out below:-
(1) It was conveyed to the Court that the most important item in dispute was the number of Aer Lingus cabin crew on the transatlantic flight no. EI105/104. The Court is satisfied that as part of the partnership’s agreement with Delta, a Delta employee must be accepted on board the Aer Lingus flight as a member of the cabin crew. The Court recommends that the cabin crew complement for the purpose of this agreement be 11 Aer Lingus and 1 Delta.
(2) The Delta crew member should occupy a crew seat.
(3) The Court notes that prior to the hearing the Union had indicated that in certain circumstances it would be prepared to agree that the Delta crew member would carry out some duties on board. These mainly, if not exclusively, related to pre/post flight. The Court considers it logical and desirable that some, if not all, in-flight duties should also be undertaken by the Delta crew member. The Court accordingly recommends the Union accept that in addition to the duties referred to above, and in the context that the Court has recommended 11 + 1 cabin crew, the following in-flight duties be undertaken by Delta crew:-
Premier Service - Assist with meal tray service.
Deliver afternoon tea/breakfast service.
Economy Service - Deliver bar service.
Provide tea/coffee service.
Monitor Economy cabin during Duty
For the purpose of clarity the Court understands the duties envisaged by the Union as relevant to the Delta crew member are: -
(1) To board and greet passengers in Premier,
(2) Offer Champagne and orange juice in Premier,
(3) Make Delta announcements and distribute documentation,
(4) Disembark passengers in Premier.
The Court also recommends that the Company for its part agree that:
(a) Aer Lingus cabin crew will not be required to carry out any additional duties or provide extra services on flight EI 105/104.
(b) Delta cabin crew will work only as cabin crew grade.
(c) Should a Delta crew person fall ill in Dublin and there is no Delta relief available, an Aer Lingus person will provide relief.
(d) One Delta crew person will be reckoned as part of Aer Lingus temporary posts complement.
(e) In conformity with the Court’s view on internal communication as stated above, should any reciprocal arrangement arise whereby an Aer Lingus crew member would be appointed to a Delta aircraft, the Company will consult and agree working conditions with the Union.
The Union also asked the Court to make a recommendation with regard to crew numbers on aircraft for the future.
In support of their claim for increased numbers the Union referred to a clause in the “Report on Study of the Operation of A330 Airbus on Transatlantic Routes” - May, 1995 which states:
- “(3) Passenger Numbers:
The Court recommends that the review suggested should be initiated.
The Union also raised the issue of loss of earnings and claimed an “away from base” allowance. The Court ruled that this claim was not properly before it and accordingly does not make any recommendation on the claim. The parties are free to pursue this in the normal manner and it might well be addressed in the context of general industrial relations problems.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
18th June, 1996______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Dympna Greene, Court Secretary.