Aer Lingus takeover uncertain as unions split

A crucial meeting is scheduled to be held later today involving airline unions and representatives of the British Airways owner, aviation giant IAG, which is keen to acquire budget airlines Aer Lingus, the national flag carrier of Ireland.

According to Irish Independent , the meeting would be aimed at allaying union concerns that had dogged workers since news first broke of the takeover bid last month (See: Aer Lingus mulls BA parent IAG's sweetened offer).

However, progress in the deal stalled as fresh splits appeared in the union and the Labour party.

Unions seemed to have scaled down their opposition to the sale after an e-mail emerged from a senior official claiming staff was warming to the idea.

According the secretary of the airline's central representative council, Myles Worth, the airline could be in a "precarious" position in the future if it failed to accept a bid.

A spokesman for the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which also represented workers, said it was "surprised" by Worth's comments.

Also Impact, representing 1,750 staff, had written to the Aer Lingus CEO Stephen Kavanagh saying Worth's comments were not authorised by the union.

Irish Examiner reported that trade unions at Aer Lingus had distanced themselves from that workers are now in favour of a takeover by IAG.

A member of the airlines' Central Representative Council - an Irish Congress of Trade Union grouping of the airline's trade unions - claimed yesterday that employees were excited by the growth opportunities a successful takeover by Willie Walsh's International Airlines Group (IAG) would provide.

According to Worth, the takeover by IAG would help secure Aer Lingus's future and protect it from future downturns, a significant shift from its previously stated position.

He added the creation of 500 positions as part of IAG's vision to transform the former national carrier into a major player on long-haul routes and to develop Dublin as a transatlantic hub far outweighed the number of jobs that would be lost in areas such IT and procurement.

Speaking on RTE Radio 1, he said that while the company was performing well at present, the danger was that it could go into a downward spiral which would cast doubt over its future performance and lead to the implementation of a ''very aggressive cost-cutting plan'' by management.

Later last night Impact trade union, which represents cabin crew at the airline, had written to incoming Aer Lingus CEO Stephen Kavanagh to say that the comments from Worth were not reflective of its position and that any claim that the majority of staff in the company were in favour of the proposed IAG takeover ''were not authorised by us and are in fact far from the case''.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party failed to speak with one voice on the issue, and former cabinet minister Pat Rabbitte faced a backlash after he suggested the government needed to sell its share in the company.