Aer Lingus Catering Staff asked to co-operate in scrapping their own jobs!

Last month, management in Aer Lingus attempted to replace the meal produced by the Catering Section for the European economy flights with a sandwich meal brought in from Bewleys. At two general meetings called by staff to discuss the issue, they voted unanimously to refuse to handle the Bewleys product.

Management had originally scheduled a trial of the new service on October 6 with the intention of going over to it completely at the end of October. Following the unanimous votes, these plans were postponed.

On 1 November, management asked for a two week trial, on two flights a day, beginning on 19 November, "solely to test the market reaction". Again a mass meeting unanimously reaffirmed our previous position and passed a motion instructing the union to organise a ballot for industrial action should the company decide to go ahead.

After a few days, the catering manager went around the canteen with hand-written letters saying no jobs would be lost and that the trial was going ahead regardless.

Despite this clear attempt to terrorise the workforce into backing off from our previous position, a mass meeting on 8 November overcame most of the mood of uncertainty that followed the Union's lack of action with an overwhelming majority reaffirming our position. A resolution was passed that if anyone was suspended there would be an immediate walkout.

We are faced with two problems - the Union did not organise a ballot for industrial action and if we refuse to co-operate on 19 November, our action will be unofficial. This is an absolute disgrace given that three unanimous votes were held on the issue.

There is a general realisation that should management succeed in this plan, then inevitably jobs will be on the line and we'll be a step further towards privatisation. This is in line with the proposal by management to seek new private investors in TEAM-Aer Lingus, which was not discussed with any of the workforce.

Despite an inevitable unease amongst some workers about the prospect of suspensions and the removal of privileges so near Christmas, there is an underlying anger that will not let people accept jobs at any cost.

Activists have been pushing the union to ballot immediately so that the action can become official and support has been promised from the loaders and cabin crew. Should be dispute develop further we will be seeking support throughout the airport.

One thing is clear: management are determined to push this to the limit to see if we will crack. If we stick together they're in for the fight of their lives.

Clare Daly

Correspondence to SIPTU Fightback, 22 Melrose Avenue, Dublin 3

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