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Aer Lingus privatisation an act of Piracy

6 October, 2004

Taoiseach fails to reassure airline workers on pensions

Speaking during Leaders Questions in the Dáil today Sinn Féin leader, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin raised the issue of the privatisation of Aer Lingus and the role of the former Minister for Transport, Seamus Brennan in it. He said it would be "an act of piracy if a handful of individuals were allowed to asset strip the company". The TD for Cavan/Monaghan later expressed his alarm at the failure of the Taoiseach in his response to reassure Aer Lingus workers and former workers that their pension entitlements are secure.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "It is nothing short of a national scandal as one of the prime national assets of this country is being prepared for destruction. I call on the Taoiseach to definitively, on behalf of the Government, rule out the completely unacceptable and outrageous proposal for a management buy-out of Aer Lingus."

He went on to ask the Taoiseach if agreed "that it would be an act of piracy against this country, and against the workers of Aer Lingus if a handful of individuals who currently happen to be the top management, are allowed to asset strip the company and sell it off at massive profit to themselves?"

Deputy Ó Caoláin said: "Workers at Aer Lingus have ensured the survival of the company. 3,000 have been made redundant. The threat of redundancy now hangs over a further 1,300 as part of the creeping privatisation. This is despite the fact that the company has made a profit of nearly €100 million in the past year."

"These redundancies are by no means voluntary as they are so often misnamed. Workers have only a vague promise that some post will be found for them within the company. During the last big redundancy the medical staff in the axed medical centre were offered jobs as baggage handlers."

Deputy Ó Caoláin also expressed to the Taoiseach the "huge concern" that exists among staff and retired staff at attempts by Aer Lingus management to undermine their pensions.

He said, "In a cynical exercise last year they tried to change the nature of that pension, something that the Pensions Board has ruled on and found to be unacceptable. Will the Taoiseach guarantee that the pensions of all current and retired Aer Lingus workers are fully honoured and protected?"

Speaking afterwards Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "It is a serious cause for concern that the Taoiseach pointedly failed to address the issue of Aer Lingus workers pensions. He failed to offer any reassurance to current or former workers that their pension entitlements would be protected. That is an absolutely unacceptable situation which will cause enormous anxiety for a great number of people." ENDS

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