Question to: Joe Higgins
Issue: Jobs
Question sent by

I would like to know your views on the Liberalisation of the Postal Service, which is due to happen in January 2011.
Will you work to ensure quality postal services in Ireland and do you recognise the vital role played by An Post in delivering the Universal Service Obligation(USO)?
Will you work to ensure appropiate financial support in order to maintain the USO, but not at a cost to the taxpayer given that An Post is currently run without government support?

Finally, will you demonstrate that postal services should provide important, decent and stable jobs that have to be protected even in times of liberalisation and financial crisis?
Reply from
Joe Higgins

I am opposed to so called ´liberalisation´ of An Post which is simply a prelude to privatisation in the future. I am in favour of An Post being developed as a publicly owned enterprise but democratised to bring An Post workers to the heart of the management as well as users of the service. Every worker should have decent pay and working conditions and the trade unions should fight for this rather than being immersed in a fraudulent partnership with the employers and the government.

I attach as well, to illustrate the privatisation point, what I said in the Dail away back in 1997 when Team Aer Lingus was being lined up for a ´management buyout´. What I said has unfortunately come true with the massacre of 1,150 jobs by the privatised entity, SR Technics.

*Dail Eireann - Volume 483 - 27 November, 1997*

*Adjournment Debate. - TEAM Aer Lingus Buyout.*

Mr. Higgins (Dublin West) Mr. Higgins (Dublin West)

*Mr. Higgins* *(Dublin West):* I wish to share my time with Deputy Sargent.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle Rory O´Hanlon

*An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:* Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Higgins (Dublin West) Mr. Higgins (Dublin West)

*Mr. Higgins* *(Dublin West):* TEAM Aer Lingus workers were astounded yesterday afternoon when the management summoned them to a meeting where they were told that management were looking for agreement from them to sell off 100 per cent of TEAM Aer Lingus to a foreign concern, in other words, total privatisation, a total sell-out to a multinational company. They demanded agreement from the workers within three weeks.


This privatisation proposal of TEAM Aer Lingus is utter treachery against a premier publicly-owned company of strategic importance, against a dedicated workforce whose skills and commitment have made this company a top quality aircraft maintenance firm. Proof is that its order books are full for this year and for next year. In 1997 TEAM Aer Lingus will show a profit [1166]two years before the target date of 1999 which was set in 1994, despite the saddling of TEAM Aer Lingus with bad debts of IR£8.6 million, with IR£28 million in severance payments which should have been an Aer Lingus debt, interest charges caused by reservicing inherited debt and with minimum State aid, in contrast to the IR£34 million given since 1993 to Shannon Aerospace, a private concern with half the workforce.

The management of TEAM Aer Lingus who have pushed the privatisation agenda relentlessly for years are guilty of outright betrayal. They have offered an average of Irish £15,600 per worker to agree this privatisation. It is 15,600 pieces of silver to sell their rights as workers and their right to a job. Let us make no mistake, if they get away with it, whichever multinational giant comes in will have loyalty to one thing only, maximisation of their profit. If that means moving the business out of Dublin to the United States or somewhere else, that is what will be done, without thought for Irish jobs, Irish workers or north Dublin. When the Asian ´flu now convulsing the sick tigers in the East spreads to the West, which it inevitably will even if it takes years, maximisation of profits and new strategies will mean that these foreign multinational corporations will abandon this country and Dublin workers.

I call on the workers in TEAM Aer Lingus, on the trade unions and on the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to fight this proposed sell-out with all the power at their command. They must mobilise and lobby public support and have public demonstrations of opposition to impress on this management and on the Government that this must be cancelled.

I want a full explanation from the Minister. I call on the communities in north Dublin not to let this happen because they will suffer badly if multinationals are allowed to swallow up this fine industry. Swords, Balbriggan, Rush, Lusk, and The Naul are quaint Irish placenames when it comes to the offices of big multinationals in the United States and elsewhere, but no pity for Irish communities will determine their decisions. The people of these areas can utilise their voices in the Dublin North by-election if the Government does not indicate today that it will cancel this proposal. The Socialist Party, whose candidate will be Claire Daly, will make this an issue of major importance in the by-election.

The privatisation of TEAM is only the beginning and Aer Lingus and Aer Rianta will be next on the list. The aviation Bill takes on a very different complexion in this context in that the Minister will be able to privatise these companies without reference to the Dail. We will not allow the Government to wash its hands of its responsibilities in this area. We must retain this fine company in publicly held ownership for the employees and communities who depend on it.

Mr. Sargent


*Mr. Sargent:* I thank Deputy Higgins for sharing his time with me. I was shocked to hear the announcement of the 100 per cent sell off of [1167] TEAM given the legal agreement with Aer Lingus to retain a 51 per cent ownership in it, thereby ensuring State ownership. This agreement is designed to protect employment and our excellent track record in air safety. The proposed aggressive buyers have referred to IR£25 million in compensation, which amounts to approximately IR£15,000 for each employee. This is pitiful thanks to employees who have given so much of their time and effort to the company. This proposal is incredible given that 60 craft workers will be taken on next week. The company has been restored to full health, has been paying tax to the Government for many years and is two years ahead of schedule in terms of its recovery plan.

The management and Government must realise that aircraft safety cannot be enhanced by private ownership. The employees will be very badly damaged when the private owners source jobs currently carried out by TEAM outside the company. This is a national flagship company and it is incumbent on the Government to ensure it is retained in State ownership and that employees´ pensions, which are a cause of considerable worry, will not also be sold off. The Government must also assure the employees that it is fully behind TEAM as a State owned company which is improving its performance every day and giving a very good service.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle Rory O´Hanlon

*An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:* The Minister intimated that she wishes to share
her time with Deputy Wright.

Mr. Wright Mr. Wright

*Mr. Wright:* It is very important that TEAM, which is involved in the international aircraft maintenance market, is as competitive as possible. I welcome the Minister´s intervention last week to ensure the workforce was made aware of the exploratory negotiations by the board and management. Following their meeting with the Minister, the chief executive and board met the workforce.

The rights of the workers must be fully protected. Regardless of whatever agreement is reached, the Government will fully protect the rights of the workforce. More importantly, the company must be able to compete in the international market. If it is not competitive it will not be able to do this. I am sure the board will give priority to the protection of the 1,600 jobs in the company in whatever decision it brings to Government.

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O´Rourke) Mary O´Rourke

*Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O´Rourke):* I thank the Deputies who contributed. They all represent workers in this company and are anxious about this matter. I was keen to reply to the matter as it is important to be accountable to the House.


While TEAM Aer Lingus has been engaged in an exploratory process of identifying possible strategic partners, no proposals have yet been made to me in this regard. Any such proposal is, [1168] in the first instance, a matter for the board of the Aer Lingus Group and any recommendation made to me by the board will be considered on its merits, having regard to the interests of all relevant parties. Furthermore, I understand that no proposal has yet been considered by the board in relation to the future of TEAM within the group.

I am informed by Aer Lingus management that although TEAM is trading moderately well at present, the company´s finances are delicately balanced and it continues to remain dependent on the Aer Lingus Group for financial support. The need to position TEAM to attract a strategic partner was clearly set out in the company´s five year business plan, which covers the period 1995-99. While the plan envisages TEAM returning to profitability by 1999, provided there is industrial harmony and an improvement in market rates, an appropriate external partner is seen by management as necessary to secure the long-term viability of the company, having regard to the global competitive nature of the industry and recent trends towards consolidation.

I fully appreciate the concerns of the workforce about the future of TEAM which were made clear to me at the meeting I initiated on 14 November with union representatives. Following the meeting, I told the Chairman of Aer Lingus of my wish for a process of dialogue in which the staff would be consulted and kept informed of developments, while respecting the need for confidentiality in relation to certain commercially sensitive details. At the meeting the need for confidentiality on some matters was expressed by all sides.

Mr. Higgins (Dublin West) Mr. Higgins (Dublin West)

*Mr. Higgins* (*Dublin West*): We do not know the name of the buyer.

Mrs. O´Rourke Mrs. O´Rourke

*Mrs. O´Rourke:* I did not interrupt the Deputy, I listened to him

Mr. Higgins (Dublin West) Mr. Higgins (Dublin West)

*Mr. Higgins* (*Dublin West*): I thank the Minister but

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle Rory O´Hanlon

*An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:* The Minister without interruption, please.

Mrs. O´Rourke Mrs. O´Rourke

*Mrs. O´Rourke:* I understand a meeting took place on Friday, 21 November, to which all staff were invited and which was chaired by the group chief executive, and that there was a meeting yesterday between Aer Lingus Group management and union representatives. I strongly believe that constructive discussions between both sides on all the relevant matters, with proper regard for employee rights as well as commercial issues, is the way to ensure the best results for the company and staff.


I share the concern of Deputies about the necessity to safeguard employment in the aviation industry. This can only be achieved by ensuring that the industry, in all its aspects, is viable in the long term. The desire to ensure a long-term viable future for TEAM is the prime motivation [1169] for management´s efforts to attract a partner. This will also be my prime concern in examining any proposal from the board regarding TEAM´s future. I am concerned to ensure that the prospects for maintaining and strengthening employment opportunities at TEAM are maximised in the years ahead.

I have always taken my responsibilities to the House seriously. If this matter develops further I will be prepared at any stage to put all the facts before the House. This issue is of major importance and I will insist on open and consultative dialogue. The protection of employees and maximisation of employment in the company are the major issues of concern for me, my Department, the Cabinet and Government.

Dail Eireann 483 Adjournment Debate. TEAM Aer Lingus Buyout.

General Debate