INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Crewing of A321 Airbuses.
2. The dispute concerns the crewing of the Company's new airbus, the A321, the first of which was introduced on the 18th of May, 1998, on the Dublin/London route. The Company's other aircraft on the same route is the Boeing 737-400 which carries approximately 150 passengers with a crew of 1 senior and 4/5 cabin crew members (CCMs).
The Union is seeking that the crew of the A321 will consist of 1 cabin manager, 2 seniors and 5 CCMs. The Company's proposal is a crew of 1 senior and 6/7 CCMs, depending on in-flight service levels. The A321 is a narrow-bodied single aisled aircraft. In an all-economy version, the aircraft will have a capacity of 193 passengers. A version which has premier and economy classes will have 121 premier seats and 46 economy seats - a total of 167. There are 3 galleys as opposed to 2 on the 737-400. The third galley is in the centre of the aircraft.
At a number of Union meetings recently, members in the senior grade maintained that they would not operate in the No. 1 position on the A321 without a promotion, and without experienced assistants (i.e., 2 seniors). The Union claims that its main aim is safety and that there is a worry that there will not be a sufficient number of experienced CCMs on board. The Union was angry when the Company put the aircraft into service on the 18th of May while the issue of the crew complement was still in dispute. However, the workers are operating the aircraft under protest.
The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and conciliation conferences took place on the 7th of April, and 21st of April, 1998. As the parties did not reach agreement, the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 23rd of April, 1998, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 18th of May, 1998.
3. 1. Flight time from Dublin to London is 45-50 minutes but the actual time for in-flight service is only 28-33 minutes. The service on the A321 will be busier than on the Boeing 737-400 as there can be up to 50 more passengers on the A321, with 120 premier seats (details of the in-flight services were supplied to the Court).
2. If the Company's proposals were accepted it could mean a crew of 1 senior and 3 CCMs with 9 weeks' experience and the remaining CCMs with less than 8 weeks' service. The senior could also be a CCM "acting up". It is critical to have a cabin manager in the No. 1 position who will ensure that all safety procedures are adhered to.
3. Almost all flights on the Dublin/London route are full. This places an intolerable stress on the No. 1. A 1995 work research report found that "the levels of psychological well-being amongst cabin crew were the lowest recorded of any Irish occupational group".
4. The only comparator is British Midlands which recently put A321s on the Dublin/London route. British Midlands crewing consists of 1 flight service manager (similar to Aer Lingus' cabin manager), 2 No. 1s (similar to Aer Lingus' senior grade) and 5 CCMs.
4. 1. The crew complement on the A321 has been increased to take account of the additional passenger numbers and the specified service levels. The ratio of crew members to passengers on the 737-400 was 1:23. The ratio on the A321 is 1:21.
2. Other European airlines which use a similar aircraft to the A321 operate with their senior grade equivalent in the No. 1 position.
3. The Company's main competitor, British Midland, has introduced A321s on the Dublin/London route. It is vital for the Company to maintain, if not improve, competitiveness and it cannot afford to incur any unnecessary increases in costs. Conceding the Union's proposal of 1 cabin manager, 2 seniors and 5 CCMs would mean an increase in the operating costs of each new aircraft of £44,800 per annum. There are currently 200 plus seniors who are eligible to operate the No. 1 position. The cost of promoting these seniors to the grade of cabin manager would be £1,600 per cabin manager per year. Within the cabin crew structure there are ample opportunities for promotion.
4. The crew complement and grading structures proposed by the Company are fair. They are cost-effective and address safety and in-flight requirements. It is the Company's intention that there will always be 1 CCM with at least 18 months experience.
Taking account of the arguments made by both parties to this dispute, it appears to the Court that the concern of the Union members relates in the main to the general work-load placed on the senior in single aisle aircraft, particularly on short haul runs, and if there is an exceptionally large proportion of inexperienced crew.
These same concerns have been projected into the new A321 aircraft on the London run, with its longer aisle, and an intermediate galley area.
The Company has demonstrated that the overall work content of the crew is reduced by its proposals, in terms of numbers per crew member, and considers that the additional 2 crew over the present Boeing 737-400 planes offset the increase in premium and economy passengers.
The Court is in no position to address concerns regarding the stress levels and safety needs of the work as constituted or proposed, and any such matters should be referred to the appropriate authority.
The Court considers that there is an increased element of responsibility relating to the No. 4 position in the rear of the aircraft, as confirmed by the Company's latest instruction to Crew Control to ensure that this position in the A321's is always filled by a CCM of at least 18 months experience.
The Court, therefore, recommends that the overall manning, which is presently on trial on the Dublin/London route, is held as per the Company proposal, but that the parties agree the responsibilities of the No. 4 position, and an appropriate premium to be paid to the most senior on each occasion that s/he occupies this role. (The Company has already guaranteed that it will never be filled, under present arrangements, with a CCM of less than 18 months experience).
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
27th May, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.