Private Members' Business. - TEAM Aer Lingus Dispute.

Wednesday, 29 June 1994

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 444 No. 6

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The following motion was moved by Deputy Hogan on 28 June, 1994:

That Dáil Éireann calls on the Government, without prejudice to its [1414] position on the Labour Relations Commission Report, to convene a round table discussion on TEAM Aer Lingus for a period of three days commencing tomorrow so as to allow all parties affected an opportunity to speak directly to one another and thereby eliminate the misunderstandings and residues of distrust that are preventing agreement from being reached.

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “That” and substitute the following:

Dáil Éireann, in view of the immediacy of the financial crisis facing TEAM Aer Lingus, endorses the Government's decision to accept the Labour Relations Commission's settlement terms for the survival of TEAM Aer Lingus and welcomes the Government's commitment to the workers of TEAM that immediately the survival of their company is assured by the acceptance of the LRC settlement terms, their formal proposals will not only be professionally assessed but also implemented if they can be shown to contribute to the company's development.

—(Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications.)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Deputy Durkan was in possession and there are nine minutes remaining.

Mr. Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  We are sharing time with Deputy Quill.

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill  Zoom on Máirín Quill  It is with an air of very deep apprehension I speak on this issue because, as I do a very black cloud hangs over Irish Steel which has many factors in common with TEAM Aer Lingus. There is a grave danger that a plant worth more than £7 million to the locality will be lost.

It is against that background I speak about the crisis in TEAM Aer Lingus, [1415] which presents this country, and its economy, with a very frightening prospect. With more than 850 workers laid off and a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the jobs of approximately another 1,200 workers, the scale of the problem is truly frightening. When account is taken of the families of these workers it is obvious that the livelihoods of many thousands of people are threatened and the budgets of many family homes will be under severe threat.

The background to this crisis has been well rehearsed and there is little to be gained from going over old ground, but there is no escaping the fundamental marketplace realities underlying the present position. The aircraft maintenance industry worldwide is facing serious problems of gross over-capacity, in turn triggererd by a massive oversupply of aircraft, with an estimated 1,000 'planes taken out of service, parked in United States deserts and elsewhere, as the industry grapples with the aftermath of the global downturn following the Gulf crisis. One result is that aircraft maintenance centres, including TEAM, are in serious crisis, losing huge amounts of money. For example, some like the prestigious MBB plant in north Germany has closed down and the FLS facility in Britain has lost in excess of $50 million. Another crippling feature of the crisis is that older aircraft, more in need of regular overhauling and maintenance, are being retired from airline fleets, while those being brought into service are newer and, therefore, require less maintenance.

Therefore, the position at TEAM cannot be considered in isolation from these global conditions. The days of protectionism and monopoly in the airline industry are over. With the exception of servicing the Aer Lingus fleet, TEAM cannot seek special conditions elsewhere. TEAM has to compete on the open international market for business. The bottom line is that it cannot win and retain such business as would render it viable if its prices are uncompetitive, as indeed they are. The cut-throat nature of the business [1416] is underlined by the fact that even Shannon Aerospace, the joint venture involving GPA, Swissair and Lufthansa, whose pay rates are little more than half those in TEAM — I did some checking today and understand that the pay rates at Shannon Aerospace are just little more than 60 per cent of the pay rates in TEAM — is not as competitive as similar operations in the United States and is more costly than the TAP operation in Portugal. They are the facts of life.

It is obvious, from any observation of the TEAM operation, that radical changes will have to be made to give the operation any chance of survival and that it is not feasible to have the company cross-subsidised from the parent Aer Lingus organisation which has sufficient problems of its own. It appears that the level of cross-subsidisation is now running at £500,000 per week, that, in recent years, the operation has clocked up appalling losses and has only managed to survive because of the uncompetitive price paid by Aer Lingus for its own fleet maintenance.

It was management that failed to come to terms with the passing of the protectionist era which enabled it to charge exorbitant prices for services, to remain cosily cocooned by the absence of competition and the maintenance of monopoly for which the general taxpayer and the air-travelling public in particular had to pay.

However, the wolf is now at the door of both Aer Lingus and TEAM. There is little to be gained from a union or, indeed, political point of view in engaging in recriminations, placing the blame and responsibility on management for the current sorry mess. While, at the end of the day this form of blame-passing may make us all feel somewhat better, it will not render the job of even one employee there more secure.

All the issues at the heart of the TEAM crisis have been ventilated at great length in recent weeks. It is obvious there can be no future for this company unless some very radical and painful changes are effected. Some might contend that there is no particular great merit in the [1417] Fine Gael proposal, that the idea of a three-day round table discussion involving the TEAM unions and the company management adds little to the existing avenues available to both sides to seek to begin the search for a solution. It is also true that the findings of the Labour Relations Commission on the dispute must be central to any settlement talks. Both sides must accept that. However, much of the current stand-off appears to stem from a lack of trust between unions and management, also from the sheer pain of adjustment implicit in any survival plan so far as the workers' pay and conditions are concerned. Valuable time is drifting by. There is a grave danger, as the stand-off continues, that the very scarce work and maintenance contracts at TEAM will be eroded further.

Therefore, it is difficult to see what would be lost by convening a three-day round-table discussion which would bring both sides in the company into face-to-face analysis of a crisis that could ultimately engulf and destroy them all and where common ground is essential. With that in mind, and conscious of the undoubted shortcomings of this formula, the Progressive Democrats will vote to create scope for the discussions and will be supporting the Fine Gael motion.

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I intend to share my time with Deputies Kemmy and Brian Fitzgerald.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Kirk): Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  As is well known to all Members and everybody involved in this dispute, TEAM Aer Lingus is faced with a major financial crisis which will lead to the closure of the company unless immediate steps are taken to rectify the problem. The company is currently losing £500,000 per week, has accumulated debts of some £65 million, has a negative value of £15 million, has no further bank facilities and is operating uncompetitively in an extremely competitive marketplace.

[1418] The present position is not just unsustainable, it is catastrophic. As my colleague the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Cowen, has already informed this House, TEAM has run out of work and money and is surviving only because its external debt is guaranteed by its parent Aer Lingus.

Members are aware that Aer Lingus is now in the process of implementing extensive restructuring measures to ensure its survival. These measures, which involve radical and difficult changes for the workers in Aer Lingus, were only possible because management and unions in the airline were able to negotiate a restructuring programme to overcome their problems with the assistance of the Labour Relations Commission.

Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the Labour Relations Commission, it has not been possible to reach a similar agreement in TEAM. While remedial action is being taken in Aer Lingus it still has a long way to go before its future is secured. The airline is becoming more competitive in its own market but it must reduce its excessive burden of debt. Supporting an uncompetitive enterprise, such as TEAM is at present, represents a massive cash haemorrhage from Aer Lingus which could jeopardise the future of the entire group. At present it is costing the parent company £500,000 per week to keep TEAM in existence.

The need for immediate action to solve the company's critical financial problems cannot be over emphasised. While management and unions are talking about the problem the company's competitors are taking more of its market share. Fundamental structural changes in the aviation industry have resulted in fewer aircraft to be serviced and maintained, while competition for the limited amount of work available is becoming more and more intense. At present the company's man-hour costs are seriously in excess of those of its competitors. Before the company can develop its services and seek new work it must first take measures to retain its existing market share. To do this it is imperative that its unit costs [1419] be brought into line with those of its competitors, who have adapted to the changed requirements of the marketplace.

The only financial contribution which the Government can make to the future of the company is an equity injection of £25 million. EU competition laws prohibit the Government from making any further investment in the company. The £25 million equity injection is conditional on proving conclusively to the EU Commission that the company will return to viability. This can only be done if management and unions reach agreement immediately on measures to solve the company's critical financial problems.

The current crisis facing the company did not happen suddenly. All those involved in the company have been aware for some time that it was in serious financial difficulties and uncompetitive. We have only recently been made aware that the rosy picture presented when TEAM was established and in its set-up phase was a bit off the mark. Our optimism was grossly misplaced.

There have been protracted negotiations between the parties both directly at local level and with the assistance of the Labour Relations Commission to try to address the fundamental problems in TEAM and to ensure survival. When conciliation talks broke down on 6 June I asked officials from the Irish Business and Employers' Confederation and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to meet management and unions with a view to establishing if any basis for resolving the problems could be found. Having been briefed by the officials from IBEC and ICTU on Wednesday, 8 June, I requested the Labour Relations Commission to conduct an inquiry into the dispute under section 38 (2) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. This was the first occasion this section was invoked since it was enacted, which clearly illustrates the seriousness with which I viewed the crisis in TEAM Aer Lingus.

The Labour Relations Commission furnished its report to me on Tuesday, 14 June, and informed me that the submissions [1420] made by the parties did not provide a basis for a negotiated settlement. Because of the failure of the parties to reach agreement the Commission included settlement proposals in its report. The proposed settlement terms were accepted by the Government that evening and were forwarded to the parties with a request that they accept them. The proposals were accepted by management but rejected by the craft unions and SIPTU operative grades. SIPTU clerical grades have accepted the proposals.

The Labour Relations Commission through its long involvement with Aer Lingus and TEAM is familiar with all aspects of the problems facing the company. Its settlement proposals are based on an intimate knowledge of the company and the issues in dispute, and represent a fair balance between the conflicting views of management and unions as to how the company's problems can be overcome.

It has been suggested that the plan drawn up by the craft unions for the future development of the company is not receiving the consideration it merits. That is not so. In its report, the Labour Relations Commission stated that the potential of the plan produced by the craft union group and the trade union groups together make significant contributions to the efficiency of the organisation and the development of its business and must be acknowledged. The Commission went on to propose that the parties establish immediately a joint non-negotiating forum whose major initial task would be to examine in detail the practicalities of adoption of the plans and to set a course for putting into place those strategies which can make a contribution to the future of the company. Clearly, therefore, the plan produced by the unions can receive full consideration in the context of the Labour Relations Commission's proposals but action must first be taken to deal with the immediate financial crisis facing the company. Regardless of the merits of the unions' proposals for future development the company will not survive unless it solves [1421] its immediate financial problems — the only solution to these problems is the immediate implementation of the LRC proposals.

The industrial relations process has been fully utilised at this stage. Both parties have received the settlement proposals drawn up by the Commission. I again emphasise that acceptance of the LRC proposals do not preclude consideration of the plan drawn up by the craft unions. The merits of that plan can be considered in the context of these proposals. The settlement proposals have been accepted by management and, in view of the serious situation facing the company and the need for urgent action to resolve the financial crisis, I again urge the unions to accept these settlement terms as the only means of overcoming the immediate problems facing TEAM Aer Lingus.

To assist in finding a solution, I am asking the Chief Executive of the Labour Relations Commission to invite the parties at TEAM, without prejudice or preconditions, to discuss the LRC proposals and in particular Clause 24 of the Settlement Terms on the potential of the plans produced by the craft union group.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  Will the Minister have his script photocopied and circulated as we may wish to respond to some of the points he made?

Mr. B. Fitzgerald: Information on Brian Fitzgerald  Zoom on Brian Fitzgerald  Obviously, the initiative by the Minister is welcomed by all. It is an opportunity for both sides — the unions in TEAM Aer Lingus and the employers — to come together and tease out the LRC proposals which, unfortunately, have been rejected to date. Having read the document, I am aware that the unions and the membership generally would have difficulties with it. Coming from a trade union background I know the difficulties the union officials have in trying to convince members that they should go a particular road when there is an erosion of conditions they enjoyed for many years.

While the motion before the House is [1422] well meaning — having discussed it with members of the Opposition I know they are as concerned about TEAM Aer Lingus as the Government — it could not possibly deal with the complex issue facing TEAM Aer Lingus. Those of us who sat in at the meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Commercial State-sponsored Bodies, yesterday and today, and listened to both sides are aware there are serious problems. To ask the chief executive of the LRC to bring both sides together is an excellent idea. However, this House is not the place to deal with industrial relations problems. From my experience the best people to deal with industrial relations problems are the people concerned — the management and workers but in this case the problems are so difficult that the help of the chief executive of the LRC must be welcomed. At the time the LRC was asked to intervene they may not have had sufficient time to tease out fully the proposals put forward by all. With the best will in the world it was not possible to devote the amount of time needed.

The unions are now being given an opportunity to return to the Labour Relations Commission to discuss not only its document but their document which they believe has much merit. I appeal to them to prepare their case well during the next few days. They prepared it well for the State sponsored bodies committee meeting. They should consult with their colleagues as this problem affects not just the craft unions but general operatives, clerical staff, technical supervisors and other staff. Without their involvement a solution cannot be found to ensure the viability of TEAM Aer Lingus.

The management of the company has serious questions to answer. A number of questions were posed yesterday and today about the way the company has been operated. It has been alleged that a customer may not receive an invoice for between three to nine months after the work has been carried out. If this is true or even half true no company could survive in such a climate, particularly in the [1423] business in which TEAM Aer Lingus is involved.

Like many of my colleagues, none more so than those who represent the north side of Dublin where the vast majority of the employees reside, I have been under considerable pressure for some time in relation to the problems at TEAM Aer Lingus. We have an obligation to try to impress upon the workforce the seriousness of the difficulties. This Government stood behind Aer Lingus when another Government would not, and we have been criticised for this. The easy answer was to sell half the company to finance the remaining part, but this Government did not do that. It decided to provide £175 million of taxpayer's money.

I appeal to my ex-colleagues in the trade unions to accept the Minister's proposal and, with their colleagues in the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, to put forward their case with confidence. I believe, as they do, that they have the answers to some, if not all, the problems facing TEAM Aer Lingus. I am quite certain that the company can be turned around and be extremely successful with the help of the Government and all concerned. I appeal to my colleagues sitting behind me to encourage those involved in TEAM Aer Lingus to accept the Minister's initiative, return to the Labour Relations Commission and to take it from there. The industrial relations machinery should be utilised in the interests of all concerned.

Mr. Kemmy: Information on Jim Kemmy  Zoom on Jim Kemmy  I wish to share my time with Deputy Costello.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Kirk): Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Can we seek agreement on that arrangement?

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  As they may not have very much time we might as well let them share it.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  The Deputy is wrong.

Mr. Kemmy: Information on Jim Kemmy  Zoom on Jim Kemmy  Every time I rise to speak Deputy Gay Mitchell has a good word to [1424] say about me and gives me encouragement. It would take a long time to dissuade or discourage me from saying what I want to say.

As it is better to count one's blessings than curse the darkness I welcome the Minister's initiative. There is no point in adding to the problems of TEAM Aer Lingus; what it needs is a solution. The Minister's initiative marks an honest and genuine attempt to break the deadlock. This dispute will not be solved on the floor of this House as anyone who knows anything about industrial relations knows well.

Negotiations must take place between the trade unions and management and they must be honest, realistic and meaningful. We must not turn our backs on the workers of the company who are intelligent, experienced people skilled with a good track record. We will not do anything in this House to take from them. We recognise their value not only to the aviation industry but to the economy.

We must also recognise that there are problems at TEAM Aer Lingus. We will solve nothing by running away from them; there is too much evasion in society. No matter how difficult it may be one must not be reluctant to confront problems and to face reality. For a combination of reasons TEAM Aer Lingus with no money and no work has very few options left. It is operating in a volatile and competitive industry which relies on high productivity and high wages. I would not turn my back on the workers and I would not like to see a return to Victorian values and industrial relations but we must go forward, not backwards.

It is right to condemn the bad management of the company as well as the golden handshakes given to some people who joined competitors of TEAM Aer Lingus in return for enhanced wages. It is right too, to condemn bad industrial relations. However, this will not solve the problem. The Labour Relations Commission document is a fait accompli and provides a drastic remedy which was put on the table to bring us back to the reality that TEAM Aer Lingus is bankrupt. If it was a private company, it would [1425] be put into liquidation and included in Stubbs Gazette.

There is no point in cursing the past; we must face economic reality. The talents, skills and experience of the workforce must be used in finding an answer to the problems at TEAM Aer Lingus. I have enough confidence in the workforce to deal with their problems. In a changed industrial world the miners and printers in Britain — fellow craftspeople — went down the wrong road and turned their faces against productivity and technology. We must learn from their experience. The workforce at TEAM Aer Lingus has the resources to find the way forward.

Kieran Mulvihill's proposals are not written on tablets of stone; they are a drastic attempt to bring us back to the reality that TEAM Aer Lingus has no money and no work. The craft unions have presented a very valuable document worthy of serious consideration but it has not been considered to date. The Minister's initiative will, however, guarantee that meaningful negotiations on all aspects of the company's operations will take place and above all, the unions will have an opportunity to find a way forward.

It is time to begin again; we can learn from the past but not live in it. TEAM Aer Lingus has a sad and unhappy past and the same is true of Aer Lingus. Aer Lingus has, however, shown that things can be turned around perhaps with some pain provided a realistic assessment of problems is made. We have to compete with our competitors. Competition will not stop just because we are weak. In this regard, changes have been made at Shannon Airport and I have to learn to live with these no matter how painful this might be for me. The aerospace industry at Shannon is finding it difficult to compete and TEAM Aer Lingus must also learn from this.

We must all change. Like my father and grandfather, I am a craftsman and have been branch secretary of the trade union movement for the past 34 years. Nobody need tell me anything about industrial relations or change. The building [1426] industry is an example of constant change. We must face up to change and I will not turn my back on this opportunity afforded by the Minister for the trade unions in TEAM Aer Lingus to negotiate a future, not based on jackboot tactics or draconian measures, but on guarantees of fair wages for the workers and productivity of the company. I urge all concerned to grasp this opportunity and chart a new era for TEAM Aer Lingus.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Nobody could emphasise the importance with which we regard the future of Aer Lingus and TEAM. It is a major industrial base on the north side of Dublin and members representing the people of that area have been striving since elected to Dáil Éireann in November, 1992, to ensure the survival and commercial future of Aer Lingus and TEAM.

Aer Lingus has been successfully restructured, in which we assisted. We are deeply concerned that TEAM survives and prospers and we do not want even one of its 1,900 employees to be made redundant. One of the most important concerns for us in the present difficulties facing the company is jobs.

With the exception of Democratic Left, all parties opposite called for the privatisation of Aer Lingus and TEAM. Fine Gael, who tabled this motion, is hypocritical. It wants Aer Lingus and TEAM to be privatised and the Progressive Democrats hold a similar view. We have stood by TEAM and Aer Lingus and insisted that a proper package of proposals be put in place to ensure that TEAM remains a successful semi-State body.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  The Deputy should vote in favour of the motion.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  We hoped that there would have been successful negotiations in the past 12 months, but last March we were disappointed in that regard. We are now in the 12th hour in respect of this matter. The Minister appointed the Labour Relations Commission to conduct an inquiry and we are now discussing [1427] a very serious position in TEAM Aer Lingus. Last Wednesday we called for a new initiative whereby the proposals of the Labour Relations Commission and the union strategy document could be put on the table. We noted that the position of the Minister, Deputy Cowen, had softened somewhat. He emphasised the seriousness with which the union proposals as well as those of the Labour Relations Commission would be considered. We provided a formula and the Minister provided a mechanism today to proceed with that formula. He indicated he will be calling on the chief executive officer of the Labour Relations Commission to bring together both sides to discuss, without prejudice or precondition, the proposals of the Labour Relations Commission and the proposals of the unions. That is the basis of the formula we enunciated at the Parliamentary Labour Party meeting last Wednesday.

The Minister's new initiative has brought this matter a substantial step forward and is the basis for resolving the impasse. The unions and management are willing to embark on a new set of talks, our difficulty is to find a suitable mechanism. While the Labour Relations Commission conducted an inquiry, it did not embark on discussions or negotiations. The union strategy plan should be submitted to the Labour Relations Commission for consideration, without prejudice or precondition, in an effort to find an acceptable solution. This will be our last opportunity to resolve the matter. I do not want industrial action which could affect the future of Aer Lingus and TEAM. We are making good progress in restructuring Aer Lingus and an industrial dispute at this time would undo all the good work. We made a commitment to stand by Aer Lingus and TEAM, we honoured it in the past 18 months and the Minister's new initiative is an indication of our intent to continue doing so. When we examine the new channel which has been opened to workers and management to bring about a successful resolution to the impasse we [1428] will end up with a strong, prosperous commercial TEAM organisation.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  I welcome the debate. Fine Gael deserves credit for dropping the matter it had planned to take this week to allow the House an opportunity of a full debate on the crisis in TEAM Aer Lingus. Given the seriousness of the crisis facing TEAM, it is deplorable that the Government should have resisted all attempts to allow the House a full debate on the issue and that Members were restricted to inadequate procedures such as Private Notice Questions and Adjournment Debates to deal with such a major crisis.

The loss of TEAM Aer Lingus would be an industrial catastrophe for the north side of Dublin. The financial and economic implications would reverberate throughout the city and possibly threaten the future of Aer Lingus. It would be the equivalent of the closure of three Digitals and, in one stroke, would wipe out the equivalent of the new Motorola jobs promised by the Government earlier this month.

When I managed to raise the matter on the Adjournment last Thursday I warned that this was one of the most serious crises we had witnessed in a public sector for many years. A week later we are no nearer to a resolution. The Government position remains entrenched, it rejected the formula put forward at the end of last week for the establishment of a negotiation forum to consider all aspects of the company's future. This offered the Government an opportunity to get itself off the hook of intransigency on which it has been impaled by the bloody-minded “take it or leave it” attitude of the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Cowen.

The attitude of the Minister is a factor in this dispute, one which is not contributing to a successful conclusion. The Minister clearly relishes the reputation he has won as the hard man of the Government who is sent in here to hold the line when the Government is under pressure. He believes he has a mission to sort out — as he sees it — the semi-State [1429] companies for which he has responsibility, irrespective of the social consequences for those who may have worked in them for decades. The bloody-minded approach of the Minister will not secure a solution to the TEAM crisis and runs the risk of pushing the company over the precipice. What is needed here is not the hard man approach of the Minister, Deputy Cowen, but the negotiation skills shown by his colleague, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Ahern, when faced with similarly difficult disputes in the past, the ability to find a solution when none seems possible, the capacity to find a compromise, the willingness to give and take and, most important, the determination to keep talking until a deal is hammered out.

The Minister is not merely a Cabinet Minister with responsibility for aviation, he is also the custodian of the taxpayers' shareholding in TEAM Aer Lingus and he should leave no stone unturned in his efforts to find a solution instead of adopting a confrontational posture. What is most extraordinary about this crisis is the refusal of the Minister to even talk to the unions. The motion before us is a simple one which merely calls on the Government to convene a round table discussion for a period of three days to allow parties to talk directly to each other. It does not commit the Government to spending a penny of public money. It does not even commit the Government to accepting any formula that might be worked out at such round table discussions. It is a reasonable restrained motion which nobody who has TEAM's interest at heart could vote against. The old Churchillian saying about “jaw jaw” being better than “war war” is as true of the industrial area as of other areas of conflict, but the Minister seems to be digging and preparing the trenches for open warfare.

It is also make up your mind time for the Labour Party Deputies who have been so vocal outside the House in their concerns about the position of TEAM. This motion falls short of the demand they issued following the Labour Parliamentary Party meeting last week which [1430] called for equal consideration of the report of the Labour Relations Commission and the recovery plan put forward by the unions. How can Deputies Ryan, Shortall, Kenny, Broughan, Costello and McDowell, the so-called Northside Six hope to retain any degree of political credibility if they refuse to support this motion? Labour Party backbenchers have to accept that they cannot act as an Opposition party when they are on the plinth outside this House talking to Charlie Bird and then perform as mindless lobby fodder when the same matter comes up for decision in this Chamber.

Pledges given outside this House now have to be backed up by votes. One would have hoped that with the presence of so many Labour members at the Cabinet table the Government would have shown greater understanding of the position of the TEAM workers and displayed a more sensitive approach to the search for a solution. Instead this Government, with a substantial Labour presence, has been more intransigent, hard-line, inflexible and authoritarian than virtually any other Governments in recent times.

One of the most objectionable features of the TEAM crisis has been the manner in which attempts have been made to make the workers the collective scapegoats for the current difficulties. Whoever is responsible for the economic problems now threatening to strangle TEAM, it is not the workers. It was not the workers who undertook the initial viability assessment of the project. It was not the workers who got their sums wrong. It was not the workers who badly misjudged the market and the competition the company was likely to face. It was not the workers who made chronic errors of scheduling causing massive waste in overtime payments. It was not the workers who allowed bad debts to mount up and remain uncollected and they did not calculate that redundancy payments would cost £12.5 million when they amounted to £28 million. The workers were not responsible for any of those appalling mistakes and they should [1431] not be pilloried as the cause of TEAM's problems.

Management at TEAM insist that the basic issue involved at present is its right to manage. It must be said that whatever about its right to manage its performance does nothing to inspire confidence in its ability to manage. In the modern industrial world management cannot be conducted in an adversarial or authoritarian manner. It must be based on co-operation and consent. It cannot be imposed through muscle by one group on another.

It is understandable that the TEAM workers should want to defend their jobs and their economic position to the fullest extent possible. Many of them gave up other jobs to work in TEAM. Others moved to new houses to be near the job, taking on new mortgages and commitments. They more than anyone have a vested interest in securing the future of the company and, with the support of the Government, it should be possible to find a solution to the current problem which will secure the maximum number of jobs possible without impoverishing the workers and which would guarantee the future viability of the company. However, we will face an industrial disaster unless something is done to break the current deadlock. Negotiations will have to take place sometime. It is preferable that this should be done now when there is something to save rather than when the only task facing the negotiators will be to pick up the pieces.

Those who read the submission made by the craft group of unions to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on State-sponsored Bodies could not fail to be impressed by the constructive manner in which they are approaching the problem and the major efforts they are making to find a solution. The document acknowledges cost savings will have to be achieved and that sacrifices will have to be made by them. Their document says they will offer 100 additional voluntary redundancies over and above the 200 requested in the Cahill Plan; agree to total functional flexibility across both engineering groupings, avionic and [1432] mechanical; agree to numerical flexibility to alleviate the high overtime costs; agree to the hiring of temporary workers but not exploited Third World cheap labour; agree to variable shifts including night shifts and they will enter discussions with Mr. Donnacha Hurley — who for some strange reason has not yet agreed to meet them — with a view to agreeing new enhanced cost-saving arrangements to attract new business and further cost savings totalling an additional £15 million. That is not the approach of wreckers and destroyers. It is the constructive approach of workers who have put much into TEAM and who do not want to see it all go to the wall.

I welcome the fact they have made the submission to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on State-sponsored Bodies which disposes of many myths about their position. What will the committee do? It must report urgently before the Dáil goes into recess on Friday so that we will have an opportunity to consider its recommendations.

The Government amendment to the motion again demands unconditional acceptance of the document produced by the Labour Relations Commission, but the Labour Relations Commission document should not be regarded as being written in tablets of stone. I do not question the bona fides of those who drafted the Labour Relations Commission document but it was prepared under great pressure of time and by people who are not aviation experts. It also dealt primarily with industrial relations problems other than the broader viability issue. It largely took on board the proposals of management which were deeply flawed and appeared to take little account of the trade union development proposals.

Of the 25 recommendations in the Labour Relations Commission report, 23 were management demands and just two reflected the unions' submission. This is not a routine industrial dispute. The problems arise from the economic condition of the company. It is possible for cost savings as great or even greater than those proposed in the Labour Relations Commission document to be effected [1433] with the co-operation of the workforce through a well based viability plan, but it must be done through co-operation between management and workers living up to the name of the company and acting as a team. Neither management nor unions can impose their will on the other side. Victory for one may spell ultimate defeat for both. There does not seem to be any logical reason that the Labour Relations Commission document and the trade union development proposals should not both be on the table with management, unions and the Government sitting down together to draw out and implement the best of both documents.

The Government, as the shareholder and custodian of the public interest in the company, cannot stand on the sidelines and act like some neutral observer. The Minister and his colleagues should encourage, facilitate, prompt and do everything possible to bring the sides together. The saving of the company and its jobs rather than the niceties of industrial relations protocol should be the priority.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Gilmore and Sargent.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I am sure that is agreed.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The crisis in TEAM Aer Lingus must be seen in the context of the Government's agenda for the semi-State sector. When the Government was formed we heard a great deal particularly from the Labour Party and in the Programme for Government that there would not be privatisation. As each day passes that commitment is wearing thinner. What is happening at TEAM Aer Lingus is part of a pattern that started with Aer Lingus and will continue with Telecom, An Post, the ESB, CIE and each of the semi-State sectors. It is a Government agenda which involves massive reductions in the numbers employed in those State companies, their possible dismantling and so-called restructuring and ultimately possibly their privatisation.

[1434] The reason there is a crisis in TEAM Aer Lingus is because the Government has deliberately chosen TEAM Aer Lingus to soften up the entire workforce in the semi-State sector. The workers and trade unions at TEAM Aer Lingus are being made the scapegoats in this process. They have to be taught a lesson so that every other employee and trade union in a semi-State company will be cowed into submission when their rationalisation and restructuring proposals are put on the table.

We are getting from the Government a public position which states that the unions and staff at TEAM Aer Lingus have to accept the Labour Relations Commission proposals. It makes nice noises about the desirability of all this being settled by agreement while privately the handlers of the Government are going to every journalist in this town bad-mouthing the unions and the staff in TEAM and making them appear to be some kind of industrial dinosaur.

There has been much talking with forked tongues in this dispute. Last week there was a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party from which backbench members emerged and said that the position agreed by the Labour Party was different from that expressed by the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, while Labour Party Ministers who attended the same meeting stated that it was in agreement with it.

Tonight we have what is called a new channel, a little glimmer that something is about to happen to reopen discussions. This is represented by Deputy Costello as a breakthrough, almost a full-blooded reopening of negotiations. He is representing it, just as it was represented last week, as something different from the Government's position. By tomorrow morning, when this vote is over, it will be represented by the Minister Quinn and the other Labour Ministers in the Cabinet as essentially the same as the Government's position.

The channel that has opened is not a new channel for discussions with the unions and for the settlement of this dispute, the only channel that has opened [1435] up is a way out for those members of the Labour Party who will find it difficult to vote for the Government's amendment.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  On a point of order, Deputy Costello referred on a number of occasions to a new initiative. Is the Minister's script available? Will it be available before the end of the debate? How is the House expected to make up its mind on this new initiative if the script has not been typed?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Was there a script?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I have it here.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Could it not be photocopied?

Mr. Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  The Minister was asked several times to have it photocopied.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  We did not get one last night. We had to wait until 2.30 today to get last night's transcript.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  It is coming, Deputy.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Cé mhéad ama atá agam anois?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Is there a further sharing of time with Fine Gael that I have not heard about?

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  I am taking the remainder of the time and I wish to know how much time I have.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  The Deputy has until nine minutes past eight.

Mr. Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  That is not the case.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I just asked if there was a further sharing arrangement that I have not heard about.

Mr. Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  Let me clarify the situation. The Democratic Left and Fine [1436] Gael are sharing this slot. The Democratic Left have until 7.59 p.m. and Fine Gael have from 7.59 p.m. to 8.09 p.m.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  I do not wish to cut into Deputy Sargent's time, but the normal procedure is that the Democratic Left's slot is from 7.40 p.m. until 8.10 p.m. That is the slot I took and that I am sharing with Deputies Gilmore and Sargent.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Faoi dheireadh thiar thall, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, the Fine Gael motion will clearly not enjoy the support of Minister Cowen. In spite of the fact that on 2 March last we were all delighted to learn that agreement had been reached on a package to save TEAM, the Minister expects the latest terms to be accepted in advance of examining the plans drawn up by an experienced workforce and independent consultants. The workforce proposals have been costed and are viable in the eyes of O'Riada Stockbrokers and Fielding and Flynn, very reputable firms.

Minister Cowen has taken on the appearance of Captain Bligh of the Bounty. His amendment to the motion demands that the workforce start to walk the plank now, and while they are walking their plan will be looked at. In fact, the LRC settlement terms are designed to hit the workforce, not management. The small 2.5 per cent of company costs that will be saved will mainly hit wages and work practices. Mr. Bernie Cahill calculated that, to be competitive, the hourly cost for aircraft overhaul needs to be £33, down from the current £41.75. The LRC settlement terms only forecast a £38.56 hourly rate; yet Minister Cowen trips the light fantastic telling us in his amendment that the survival of the company will be assured by acceptance of the LRC settlement terms.

However, let me warn any Government backbenchers who were supporting the other team last night on television while Minister Cowen was speaking to the Opposition, that he veered from these “Alice in Wonderland” sentiments about survival being assured. This time [1437] last night the Minister suggested that with acceptance of the LRC terms the company would “survive in the short term”. Acceptance would be a “short term measure”, a “first step” and would “represent a victory for nobody”.

The workforce are not lemmings. They want long term, viable measures, that will not have everyone in disarray in three or even six months down the line. The big question is whether the concerned Labour Party backbenchers, especially the Enid Blyton-styled “Northside Six” will be lemmings tonight. Already a statement by the Parliamentary Labour Party tells us that Labour insists on unions and management at TEAM accepting the LRC terms and the trade union development plans together; that they will not stand for any “mutiny on the Bounty”— style tactics or for being told to take it or leave it and to start walking down the plank and talk later. Those are the tactics of Captain Bligh, alias the Minister, who risks losing the whole ship unless he puts away his sword and starts talking to the people who know how to reduce costs, who have already reduced turn-around time on their own initiative and who have already developed specialised tools in plastic and metal which I examined in Drogheda last Saturday at a very angry meeting of TEAM workers and their families.

How can the “Northside Six” and their Labour colleagues turn their backs on the skilled personnel who are able to cut costs with or without the thanks of an indifferent management? The Minister should listen to what the unions and the independent experts in aviation and finance say and get the management to listen to the unions and to their own expert consultants, Airline Maintenance Associates, who tell us clearly that pricing, specifically labour pricing, is not the primary selection factor in repair management. The overriding criterion for selection of a repair agency is turn-around time. Every day a Boeing 747 is on the ground TEAM loses $100,000 in revenue.

The LRC does not go into the long term strategy or include full trading figures. [1438] It does not provide for any investigation or sanction on the record of management in taking decisions which have cost this company millions of pounds or decisions which management has not taken which have also cost TEAM millions of pounds. It does not deal with the decision of Aer Lingus management to withdraw support funding of £20 million which was required to ensure the IDA would grant aid building of hangars. This was withdrawn, resulting in a massive mortgage on TEAM, a tidy earner for the banks but a deadly burden on TEAM and its 2,000 staff.

Government and management cannot get away with these irresponsible actions and lack of constructive action. On 3 March 1994 we read in our newspapers that as terms had been agreed by management and union leaders at Aer Lingus and TEAM, the injection of £175 million State equity would see the Cahill plan finally implemented, and that Aer Lingus would put £25 million in equity into TEAM which could turn the company around from the enormous losses it was experiencing. These unions, unlike many others, are prepared to accept the pain, management and Government must do the same. They can guarantee gain. At present on management figures only 44.4 per cent hours of capacity are being sold at a cost of £41.75, causing a loss of £7 million. How does management get away with such an appalling sales record? All that is needed to break even is a further 200,000 hours work or 56 per cent of available hours. That amounts to only five extra C-checks, that is five extra aircraft. This brings the hourly rate down to £33.

They are management figures with which the unions agree but the LRC terms do not include them. It is not a plan, unlike what Senator Ross said in the Sunday Independent. Labour said it wishes to act on its concern. However, abstaining is not acting while voting for the Opposition motion is. Any respect which remains for the Labour Party is now on the line. I urge it not to let down [1439] the workers and this fine company but to support the Opposition motion.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Do I take it the Deputy wishes to further share his time slot?

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  In the past Fine Gael sought a strategic partnership to ensure the future of Aer Lingus. That is strongly supported by many trade unionists. It is ironic that Deputy Costello attacked the proposal which is strongly supported by many people who see a partnership as a way forward for Aer Lingus. Not since the Munich agreement has anything been as misleading as the so-called agreement of 2 March. Why has management not been asked to explain the reason for this agreement on 2 March and why it lost the trust and confidence of its workforce by going back on the agreement? Would any of us do business in that way?

Why did the Minister come in here point the finger at the workforce and blame the unions? Why did the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Cowen, and all the other Labour and Fianna Fáil Ministers and backbenchers say last week that there could be no further negotiation and or reference to the Labour Relations Commission? We find tonight, when Fine Gael got the agreement of the House to put forward this matter during Private Members' time, all of a sudden a fig leaf is produced to cover the embarrassment of the small-minded “Northside Six” who are not here, having scurried out of the House with red faces. An agreement was made between a State body and its workforce but we now find that the basis on which the agreement was made was wholly unacceptable to the management who shook hands on it and overnight decided not to sign it.

The document submitted today by the trade unions welcoming a new way forward is a further indication that the trade union members and workforce are not militant or irresponsible. I met a number of these people — I am a southside Deputy whose constituency is not [1440] affected by this crisis — and I have been struck by the reaasonableness of their approach, by the research they have done and the way they are prepared to argue their case. In the past we have argued for the workforce to become involved in industrial democracy. Not only has the Government, with its huge majority, trampled democracy in this House where everything is to go through as it says but now industrial democracy is dead.

The trade unions and workforce in TEAM Aer Lingus put forward constructive proposals, costings and a cogent argument, and the Labour Relations Commission was asked to adjudicate on the matter. What credentials has the chief executive of the Labour Relations Commission to examine the balance sheet of a company, to consider the financial position and make a report which the Minister finds so compelling? This report has brought us to the brink of closing a company which will result in the loss of almost four times the number of jobs lost to Digital. These people will be out on the streets and their families left in difficult circumstances. Why have we painted ourselves into this corner? We have done so because the Government, with its huge majority, forgets what democracy is. The Labour Party members of Government who pretend to be supporters of the workforce, who at one time were supporters of the workforce, forget what industrial democracy is.

The workers have offered to participate in any reasonable way forward. The Minister has ignored what they said in a submission today to the Joint Committee on Commercial State-sponsored Bodies:

We welcome the arrival of our new chief executive officer, Donnacha Hurley, and we believe that, given what has transpired up to now, this offers the best way forward. In the interest of making genuine progress we would welcome meaningful discussions with Mr. Hurley under an independent chairperson (not the Labour Relations Commission) with his agenda on the table.

[1441] The Minister did the complete opposite to what the workforce asked. How can the Minister assuage the fears of the workforce? How can he expect them to have confidence in a management that walked away from a deal made with them on 2 March? The Government wants to go back to the Labour Relations Commission at this eleventh, twelfth or thirteenth hour, but that is what the unions have specifically said they do not want.

The Fine Gael proposal will be voted down by the Government. The Labour Party TDs will come in whingeing and whining, wringing their hands. They have an opportunity to show whether they support this motion. The Government put down an amendment to the motion deleting all the words, and praising itself for its great movements to date. What we have had so far in this House is disparagement of the workforce, a disregard for their views and for industrial democracy. From analysis of the financial circumstances in TEAM Aer Lingus, I see a serious problem, as do the workforce. One would want to be blind not to see there is a very real problem there.

The management, in whom the Government seems to have great confidence, is the management that presided over not only the TEAM Aer Lingus fiasco but the Aer Lingus Holidays fiasco and the catering cost fiasco. When has any member of that management been disciplined or called to account? When has a Minister asked these people what is going on in Aer Lingus and its subsidiaries? It is time we had a parliamentary inquiry into the way Aer Lingus has been run and the way this crisis has been brought about. For too long the finger has been pointed at the workforce in TEAM Aer Lingus who realise how serious the problem is and are prepared to contribute to its solution, including accepting new principles on which heretofore trade unionists would have dug in their heels. I ask the Minister and Members of the House, particularly those in the Labour Party, to support this motion.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I am calling [1442] the Minister of State, Deputy Noel Treacy, who has six minutes.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  On a point of order, will we be required to vote on this motion tonight without knowing, what is this new precedent from the Minister?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  The question will be put.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I restated it.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Where is the Minister's script? It is most unusual, not least in a matter of this importance, that the Minister should come in without a script.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I am sorry, Deputy Rabbitte, you are encroaching on another speaker's time.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Is the Minister saying that although this matter was on the Order Paper, the entire Civil Service could not prepare and type a script so that we would know——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I ask the Deputy to resume his seat. I have called the Minister of State.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Where is the Minister's script?

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  The Minister has the script.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  We are being asked to vote on this motion when we do not know what the script contains. I ask you to protect our rights as an Opposition.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  The Chair has called the Minister.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  On a point of order, is it not the case that the Minister, Deputy Quinn, was in direct breach of the Standing Orders of this House in reading from a script which was not circulated to Members?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I am not [1443] aware the Minister was reading from a script.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  He was, and it is a direct breach of the Standing Orders to read from the script.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  If it will help the House, the script was prepared right up to the commencement of the debate and the end part was not typed. I do not have the end pages but I am prepared to circulate them, if that is acceptable to the House.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  It is not acceptable.

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. N. Treacy): Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I have only two minutes.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  The Chair can do no more; the script will be circulated.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  If the Minister reached a last minute understanding with the “Northside Six”, the rest of us should know.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  This gives us some insight into the improvised nature of the proposal.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  During the course of this debate many Deputies referred to the crisis in TEAM Aer Lingus. We have heard many comments about the origins of this crisis but I do not propose to comment on these. Whatever their origins, the net result is that we have a company with a crisis of such proportions that it not only threatens its existence, but could also undermine the viability of its parent company, Aer Lingus——

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Or the Government.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  ——unless corrective action is taken now, and I sincerely mean now.

[1444]Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  This is a real insult. We now have a speech from the Minister of State but the Minister who spoke at the beginning of this debate has still not provided a script to this House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Deputy Rabbitte, the Chair has dealt with that matter and one more time I ask the Deputy to resume his seat.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  The Minister has still not provided a script for this House. We still do not know what the senior Minister is offering by way of tactics to the “Northside Six”.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Will Deputy Rabbitte please resume his seat or I will ask another question? The Deputy is leaving me with no other alternative.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  There are some very hard, immediate inescapable financial facts which must be faced. These are: (1) £110 million has been invested in TEAM Aer Lingus to date; (2) it never yielded a return on this investment; (3) it now has cumulative negative reserves of £55 million; (4) it has a negative net worth of £15 million; (5) it has debts of £69 million; (6) with increasingly more competitive difficulty in its trading prospects, its current position is unsustainable; (7) it has no further bank facilities and finally, the company's bills are being paid by the airline to the extent of £500,000 per week.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I hesitate to interrupt the Minister but I must advise him that he has two further minutes.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  I was interrupted five times.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  In accordance with the Order of the House of this day, I must call on the Deputy to conclude. I greatly regret doing so but my hands are tied.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  It is against this background [1445] that we must take immediate action to turn this company around. This will be no easy task and it will take courage, immediate commitment and realistic co-operation from everybody sincerely interested in the survival of his company.

TEAM Aer Lingus' market is dwindling rapidly because Aer Lingus' modern fleet requires less maintenance and it is now paying only open market rates for its maintenance; there is a downturn in world aviation and a substantial increase in the number of competitors; there has been a loss in market share due to uncompetitiveness. As a result, TEAM's outside revenue, that is outside the Aer Lingus group, fell by 18 per cent, from £57 million to £47 million in 1993-94. These factors will be with us for some time. It would be unwise to plan on a rising tide lifting a submerged TEAM Aer Lingus out of its troubled waters. TEAM Aer Lingus can survive and the jobs in it can be maintained only if the very acute problems which are besetting the company are addressed, both in the short and the medium-term context.

Competitiveness is the key ingredient for survival and sustained viability. TEAM Aer Lingus has the quality and the skills. What it does not have is a competitive product and it cannot survive without it.

The Labour Relations Commission's proposals will not solve the problems of TEAM Aer Lingus. They are a first step, but only a first step. They are necessary, but not sufficient to ensure the survival of TEAM Aer Lingus. They will be sufficient provided output can be increased very substantially.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  That is not what the motion says.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  However, before TEAM can attract new business it has to ensure that its existing cost base matches those of its competitors. It is because of this that the Government has asked both management and unions in TEAM Aer Lingus to accept the LRC settlement terms. Again, let me emphasise that this is only a first step.

[1446] The second step is one into which all the stakeholders — and notably the workers in TEAM Aer Lingus — must make both an input and a commitment. In this regard I want to reiterate what the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications said in this House. Not alone do we welcome the proposals of trade unions in TEAM Aer Lingus, we also determine that they will receive the fullest and most professional assessment and if they can be shown to contribute to profitability in the company they will be implemented. The successes of the Irish economy in recent years have been mainly due to the fact that at national level there has been consensus approach to the problems facing us as a nation.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I must ask the Minister to conclude.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  It is my firm belief that what we can do at national level we can do also at company level.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I must call another speaker.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  I regret the attitude of Members who came in here and denied me my right to respond to this motion.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  The Minister got his chance.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  The Deputy got his chance often but he was not able to come out of the convention.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I will be circulating my script, including my reaction to the proposals made by the Minister this evening——

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Which is different from what I actually said.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  ——because I have some respect for the orders of this House.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  But not much respect for others.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I have personally met [1447] employees from TEAM Aer Lingus. I have spoken with representatives of management. I know the families and the neighbourhoods that will be devastated if the Minister's brinkmanship fails and TEAM Aer Lingus closes. This will, in the classical meaning of that term, be a tragedy, because a tragedy is something that is avoidable, something that happens because of human misunderstanding and weakness of judgment.

Fine Gael's motion, which I drafted personally having spoken to both sides, is designed to avoid that tragedy by getting the highest authority in this country — Dáil Éireann — to give all concerned a last opportunity, face to face, over a period of just three days, to clear away once and for all that dross of emotions, suspicions and conflicting versions of history that have prevented agreement up to now.

I agree with much of what the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Cowen, said here last night. I agree with him on the “financial unsustainability of the status quo”. I agree with him that TEAM must “adapt to survive”. I agree with him that TEAM has failed over the past two years. I agree with him that TEAM's outside revenue has fallen dramatically since 1992-93, and that its market is dwindling.

I agree with him also that the Labour Relations Commission was brought into play because, as he said, there was “no common agenda, there was a stand-off position, with no possibility of a resolution of the problem and different analyses were taken by the two sides in the company”. But I ask him to agree with me that this is still the case. There is still no common agenda, still no common analysis. And no amount of shotgun tactics will change that. That is the point that Minister Cowen in his tragic blindness, failed to see last night.

Labour Party backbenchers have asked that the union's document be put on the agenda along with the LRC document. The Minister has refused this, presumably because he feels the talks on the two documents would drag on forever. I [1448] understand that the money is not there to keep talks going on indefinitely. That is why I have drafted the Fine Gael motion in such a way as to set a limit of just three days on the round table forum I want the Minister to convene. This proposal is probably less than what the unions want. It is also less than what the Labour Party backbenchers say they want, but it is a reasonable compromise. All sides must climb down if the deadlock is to be broken. And because it is the Dáil, not the Government, not the LRC and not the unions that is proposing this formula, it can be acccepted by all without a loss of face.

I do not want TEAM to close. I appeal to every Deputy in Dáil Éireann to look honestly at the Fine Gael proposal and accept it as the last available means to prevent the closure of the company.

I listened this evening to the Minister for Enterprise and Employment make a last minute, apparently unscripted and concocted proposal, for open-ended discussions convened by the LRC. This is designed to appear to be a radical change from what Minister Cowen was saying last night. Of course, it involves no change in the Government amendment to the Fine Gael motion, an amendment which is profoundly objectionable to everyone working in TEAM. Nothing that the Minister said this evening changes a single comma, sentence or semicolon of the Government's unacceptable amendment to the Fine Gael motion.

I see five difficulties with this last minute proposal put forward by Minister Quinn for motives that do not require much difficulty to divine. First, the discussions proposed by the Minister are open-ended and will thus lack the urgency provided by the Fine Gael proposal. The open-ended nature of the Minister's proposal seems to take little account of the daily cost of maintaining TEAM while the talks go on. This casts doubt on the sincerity of Minister Quinn's proposal. Second, the Minister excludes himself and all other Ministers from the discussions to be convened by the LRC. That is a mistake; the Minister should be involved, he is part of the problem [1449] and part of the solution. He is, after all, the shareholder. Third, the LRC is not a good convenor for these discussions because it is not a disinterested party. Its own proposals are now the central bone of contention in the dispute. Fourth, the Minister waited until tonight to make his proposal and this casts grave doubt on his willingness to accept the outcome of any discussion once the Dáil has gone into recess and the Deputies, about whom the Minister is so worried, have departed to their constituencies.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Hear, hear.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Fifth, it is a clear that the Minister's proposal is based on a prior acceptance by the unions of the LRC proposal because, according to the Minister's statement, the purpose of the talks he is proposing is “to discuss the implementation of the LRC proposals”.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I said to discuss the proposals.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I have the Minister's script at last and I would ask him not to wriggle any further.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  The Deputy has taken it out of context to suit his negative attitude.

Mr. Boylan: Information on Andrew Boylan  Zoom on Andrew Boylan  Minister Treacy had his say.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I will quote from it again. “To assist a solution, I am asking the chief executive of the Labour Relations Commission to invite the parties at TEAM, without prejudice or preconditions, to discuss the implementation of the LRC proposals.”

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  A fig leaf.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Clearly those discussions are predicated on accepting the LRC proposals and then discussing how to implement them. That is the problem, Minister. Those proposals are not accepted. Perhaps the Minister is right [1450] and they should be accepted. In an ideal world perhaps they should be accepted but they are not accepted. That is a reality of industrial relations. The Minister is producing a proposal at the last minute that is designed to appear to be something other than it is. The fact that it was not produced last week or even last night but this evening, at the very moment the vote is about to take place, casts serious doubts on whether there is any real depth or sincerity in this proposal. Not one of the famous “Northside Six” Labour Deputies is here in the House to listen to this debate and that is a commentary on their commitment. They are not here to hear the actual words and meaning of the Minister's proposal. They are absent.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  It is not what Ruairí told them in the bar.

A Deputy:  There is not even a Fianna Fáil “fiver” here.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  For these reasons I would ask the Labour Deputies who are not in this House — if they have their monitors turned on in whatever corner of the House they are hiding — to accept that the Fine Gael proposal is better than this last minute idea to discuss the implementation of the LRC proposals with the LRC, which is like holding a court with the devil and having the devil as the principal judge.

The formula put forward by Fine Gael is the right formula to solve this dispute. It is not a Government proposal, therefore, it does not involve someone having to climb down and accept the Government line. It is not a management proposal, therefore nobody has to climb down and accept management's line. It is not a union proposal, therefore management is not losing face by accepting it. It is a Dáil Éireann proposal, proposed by the supreme legislative body in this State and if it is accepted it will provide a formula upon which all can work. It is also far more realistic than the Minister's proposal because there is a time limit on it. The Minister was at pains to point out that it costs £500,000 a week to keep [1451] TEAM going. If that is the case why is the Minister's proposal open-ended? Surely there is more seriousness in the Fine Gael proposal because it has a time limit on it. It is a much more realistic proposal from the management's and the unions' point of view because it does not accept any side's preconditions but accepts a time limit for the discussions.

I ask those Labour Deputies who are not here in this House to accept the Fine Gael proposal and vote for it. They should follow the example of Deputies Killeen and de Valera who were willing, because their constituencies were involved, to show that they put the interests of their constituents before their party pressure.

Mr. Kemmy: Information on Jim Kemmy  Zoom on Jim Kemmy  Where are they now?

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  They have not suffered very much as a result because, as we are all aware, they were re-admitted to their party recently. Perhaps the “Northside Six”, or is it “Five” or “Four”, might take a little example from their sister party in Government and realise that this is the way to get something done for their constituents.

Mr. Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  I thank the Opposition parties for their support. I do not have time now to deal with the points raised by Deputy Owen and Deputy Richard Bruton. Tonight, Fine Gael is giving an opportunity to the Government to change its mind. Indeed, the Minister, Deputy Quinn made a feeble attempt at doing so in respect of this matter in the House tonight. Fine Gael is giving an opportunity to the Labour Party in particular to free the “Northside Six” from their bondage.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  Or their consciences.

Mr. Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  If they leave the House this evening having voted against this motion, the workers of TEAM Aer Lingus will have once again witnessed one of the greatest displays of political [1452] dexterity and hypocrisy in modern times. Of course, many of those Deputies who were subjected to the barrage by the Leader of the Labour Party before the last general election——

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Nothing to do with TEAM Aer Lingus.

Mr. Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  ——in a hangar at Aer Lingus will have seen that that gentleman, who is now a Minister, made unsustainable commitments in an irresponsible way to the workers of the Aer Lingus Group.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  £175 million.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  £175 million.

Mr. Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  I make a final appeal to the Minister and the Government to accept this motion in good faith——

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  £175 million — a commitment made and delivered.

(Interruptions.)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Deputy Hogan, without interruption.

Mr. Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  ——as a final attempt to resolve this problem that has arisen in recent weeks. The Government can remove the deadlock that has built up during this dispute——

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The Deputy's party wanted to privatise the service.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  They are all listening to Minister Quinn.

Mr. Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  ——so that the future of the company and the livelihood of the 1,900 workers can be negotiated through normal industrial relations rather than through procedures that have been dictated by political diktat and so-called macho-politicians like Minister Quinn.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  There is no dictation.

[1453][1454] Amendment put.

The Dáil divided: Tá, 72; Níl, 47.

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Michael.
Ahern, Noel.
Andrews, David.
Bell, Michael.
Bhamjee, Moosajee.
Bree, Declan.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, John (Wexford).
Burton, Joan.
Byrne, Hugh.
Callely, Ivor.
Coughlan, Mary.
Cowen, Brian.
Davern, Noel.
Dempsey, Noel.
de Valera, Síle.
Doherty, Seán.
Ellis, John.
Fitzgerald, Brian.
Fitzgerald, Eithne.
Fitzgerald, Liam.
Flood, Chris.
Foley, Denis.
Gallagher, Pat.
Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
Haughey, Seán.
Higgins, Michael D.
Howlin, Brendan.
Hughes, Séamus.
Jacob, Joe.
Kavanagh, Liam.
Kemmy, Jim.
Kenny, Seán.
Killeen, Tony.
Kirk, Séamus.
Lenihan, Brian.
Leonard, Jimmy.
Martin, Micheál.
McDaid, James.
Moffatt, Tom.
Morley, P.J.
Moynihan, Donal.
Nolan, M.J.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donoghue, John.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Batt.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Leary, John.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Toddy.
Pattison, Séamus.
Penrose, William.
Power, Seán.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Reynolds, Albert.
Ryan, Eoin.
Ryan, John.
Smith, Brendan.
Smith, Michael.
Spring, Dick.
Stagg, Emmet.
Taylor, Mervyn.
Treacy, Noel.
Wallace, Dan.
Walsh, Eamon.
Walsh, Joe.
Woods, Michael.

CLASS="CP">Níl

Allen, Bernard.
Barrett, Seán.
Barry, Peter.
Boylan, Andrew.
Bradford, Paul.
Broughan, Tommy.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Bruton, John.
Bruton, Richard.
Byrne, Eric.
Carey, Donal.
Connor, John.
Crawford, Seymour.
Crowley, Frank.
Deasy, Austin.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Doyle, Avril.
Dukes, Alan M.
Durkan, Bernard J.
Finucane, Michael. [1455]Rabbitte, Pat.
Ryan, Seán.
Sargent, Trevor.
Fitzgerald, Frances.
Flanagan, Charles.
Foxe, Tom.
Gilmore, Eamon.
Gregory, Tony.
Harney, Mary.
Higgins, Jim.
Hogan, Philip.
Kenny, Enda.
Keogh, Helen.
Lowry, Michael.
McCormack, Pádraic.
McDowell, Michael.
McGinley, Dinny.
McGrath, Paul.
Mitchell, Gay.
Noonan, Michael.
(Limerick East).
O'Donnell, Liz.
Owen, Nora.
Quill, Máirín. [1456]Shatter, Alan.
Sheehan, P.J.
Timmons, Godfrey.

CLASS="CP">Tellers: Tá, Deputies Dempsey and B. Fitzgerald; Níl, Deputies E. Kenny and Boylan.

Amendment declared carried.

Question put: “That the motion, as amended, be agreed to”.

The Dáil divided: Tá, 73; Níl, 48.

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Michael.
Ahern, Noel.
Andrews, David.
Bell, Michael.
Bhamjee, Moosajee.
Bhreathnach, Niamh.
Bree, Declan.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, John (Wexford).
Burton, Joan.
Byrne, Hugh.
Callely, Ivor.
Coughlan, Mary.
Cowen, Brian.
Davern, Noel.
Dempsey, Noel.
de Valera, Síle.
Doherty, Seán.
Ellis, John.
Fitzgerald, Brian.
Fitzgerald, Eithne.
Fitzgerald, Liam.
Flood, Chris.
Foley, Denis.
Gallagher, Pat.
Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
Haughey, Seán.
Higgins, Michael D.
Howlin, Brendan.
Hughes, Séamus.
Jacob, Joe.
Kavanagh, Liam.
Kemmy, Jim.
Kenny, Seán.
Killeen, Tony.
Kirk, Séamus.
Lenihan, Brian.
Leonard, Jimmy.
Martin, Micheál.
McDaid, James.
Moffatt, Tom.
Morley, P.J.
Moynihan, Donal.
Nolan, M.J.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donoghue, John.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Batt.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Leary, John.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Toddy.
Pattison, Séamus.
Penrose, William.
Power, Seán.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Reynolds, Albert.
Ryan, Eoin.
Ryan, John.
Smith, Brendan.
Smith, Michael.
Spring, Dick.
Stagg, Emmet.
Taylor, Mervyn.
Treacy, Noel.
Wallace, Dan.
Walsh, Eamon.
Walsh, Joe.
Woods, Michael.

CLASS="CP">Níl

Allen, Bernard.
Barrett, Seán.
Barry, Peter.
Boylan, Andrew.
Bradford, Paul.
Broughan, Tommy.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny). [1457]Deasy, Austin.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Doyle, Avril.
Dukes, Alan M.
Durkan, Bernard J.
Finucane, Michael.
Fitzgerald, Frances.
Flanagan, Charles.
Foxe, Tom.
Gilmore, Eamon.
Gregory, Tony.
Harney, Mary.
Higgins, Jim.
Hogan, Philip.
Kenny, Enda.
Keogh, Helen.
Bruton, John.
Bruton, Richard.
Byrne, Eric.
Carey, Donal.
Connor, John.
Crawford, Seymour.
Crowley, Frank. [1458]Lowry, Michael.
McCormack, Pádraic.
McDowell, Michael.
McGinley, Dinny.
McGrath, Paul.
Mitchell, Gay.
Noonan, Michael.
(Limerick East).
O'Donnell, Liz.
O'Malley, Desmond J.
Owen, Nora.
Quill, Máirín.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Ryan, Seán.
Sargent, Trevor.
Shatter, Alan.
Sheehan, P.J.
Timmins, Godfrey.

CLASS="CP">Tellers: Tá, Deputies Dempsey and B. Fitzgerald; Níl, Deputies E. Kenny and Boylan.

Question declared carried.


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