AER LINGUS 48 HOUR STRIKE – to oppose wage-cutting at Belfast Airport

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ALL Aer Lingus routes will be affected when 500 pilots strike for 48-hours next Tuesday and Wednesday.

They are taking action against the airline’s plan to move their flights to Heathrow from Shannon Airport to Belfast Airport and pay their Belfast staff less than their colleagues in the Irish Republic.

Last week the airline announced that 100 new employees at Belfast International Airport will be paid the cut rate.

The strike decision was taken at a meeting of members of the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association branch of IMPACT at Dublin Airport on Monday.

IMPACT’s Michael Landers said: ‘If we didn’t take that line I think the inevitable outcome would be that Aer Lingus would use the pilots at the new base to eventually drag down pay and terms and conditions throughout the rest of the company as well.’

IMPACT said it is opposing cutbacks in the Aer Lingus operation out of Shannon, and predicted that the airport could be shut, with disastrous consequences for the whole Mid-West region of Ireland.

Aer Lingus’s plan is that flights between Shannon and Heathrow will stop, with at least 40 resultant job losses anticipated, while recruiting up to 30 pilots for the Belfast operation.

Irish Airline Pilots Association president Evan Cullen said it was ‘grotesque’ that Aer Lingus pilots must resign their current service, terms and conditions, and re-apply if they want to work out of Belfast under different pay and conditions.

He said Aer Lingus’ actions were ‘a fig leaf for a cost-cutting agenda against pilots who have served the company well’.

But Aer Lingus Chief Executive Dermot Mannion claimed: ‘It is appropriate in new bases outside the Irish Republic to recruit on local terms and conditions.’

Mannion described the strike plan as a ‘scandalous proposition’, adding that Aer Lingus is faced with the ‘extraordinary proposition’ that IALPA could have a veto over Aer Lingus’s ability to ‘expand bases outside the country’.

Mannion said 50,000 passengers would be disrupted by the strike, while the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation said it would result in millions of euros of lost business.

l Drivers and warehouse workers at Heathrow cargo handler Nippon Express walked out on strike at 6am yesterday morning after the company once again refused to settle the pay and shifts dispute by agreeing to go to the conciliation service Acas.

Speaking from a lively picket line, Kevin Hall, Unite regional industrial organiser, said every attempt had been made by the union to get Nippon Express to honour a long-standing agreement to go to the independent Arbitration Conciliation and Advisory Service (ACAS).

The dispute has arisen after the company offered a below inflation pay award of only 2.8 per cent to the 45-strong workforce who deal with warehousing, cargo handling and truck driving.

Hall said new shift patterns, which the company is seeking to impose at the same time, would mean members losing over a thousand pounds each year.

‘We have done everything we can to settle this dispute fairly for our members and in line with the agreements we have with the company,’ stressed Hall.

‘But we have been met by a brick wall. That’s why we’re out on strike today.’

Further strikes are planned for Friday and Saturday, August 17 and 18, if no resolution can be found.

• Over 200 G4S security members are about to be balloted on industrial action at East Midlands Airport following a rejection of the company’s pay proposals. 

Mick Till, Unite regional industrial organiser, said yesterday: ‘Over 200 of our members will be taking part in a lawful industrial action ballot.

‘It follows many meetings with the employer where our members have mandated our negotiators to press for a substantial pay increase to reflect the increased pressures and responsibilities they have in the ongoing high security at airports.

‘We are also looking to change the way G4S pay their employees at East Midlands Airport, which is currently based on service with the company.

‘I believe that G4S have an ideal opportunity to change the face of the security industry in aviation, which has always been well known as a low paid job,’ added Till.

• Second news story

ALLAWI CALL TO REMOVE MALIKI GOVERNMENT

IRAQ’s former puppet prime minister, Iyad Allawi, appointed by US administrator Paul Bremer to rule Iraq shortly after the 2003 removal of Saddam Hussein, has called for the Maliki government to go.

Allawi, an ex-Ba’athist, and currently a leading agent of the CIA, is now putting himself forward as the strongman that Iraq requires.

It was under his premiership that the US army attacked and levelled Fallujah.

Yesterday he blasted the Maliki government for being ill-equipped to halt the slide towards all-out chaos, and urged that the regime be replaced.

Allawi, whose mixed Sunni-Shi’ite Iraqi National List this month joined a boycott of the government led by Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, told US National Public Radio that the present government is fuelling the problems ravaging the country.

‘The whole situation is based on sectarianism and is anti-reconciliation,’ Allawi said in the interview.

‘I think the whole system ought to be changed, and a non-sectarian regime should prevail,’ he said.

‘Maliki is part of the sectarian system which is influencing and affecting the country negatively. And we cannot see recovery – political recovery that is to say – if this sectarian system remains operational in the country.’

On August 6th, the secular party loyal to Allawi announced it was boycotting cabinet meetings.