The Fine Gael-Labour government are trying to ram through the sale of Aer Lingus even before TDs return to their constituencies at the June weekend and hear concerns about it.

The unseemly rush shows that the government has something to hide. The sell-off is bad for the Irish economy and bad for workers conditions.

Access to the Heathrow slots is only protected for seven years. There is already huge pressure among global airlines for the use of Heathrow so there is no doubt these slots will be sold off then – with a huge profit to IAG.

Labour Party TDs are claiming that workers’ rights are protected. But this is nonsense.

When IAG took over Iberia airlines they got rid of 4,500 jobs. When workers demanded that the Spanish government revoke the merger, Willie Walsh claimed they were anti-British.

Walsh prides himself on being a macho manager that takes on unions. When he was CEO of Aer Lingus, he got rid of 2,000 job. His major strategy was to push for continual outsourcing of services.

When he was running British Airways he was also involved in major confrontations with the unions. He attacked the working conditions of cabin crew and, when they resisted, he removed their travel concessions and threatened to have unqualified staff do their work. His reputation was so bad that 95 leading academics signed an open letter denouncing his attempt to break the unions.

IAG have offered no guarantees there will not be compulsory redundancies. Instead they use vague language like ‘they do not foresee’ or ‘it is not envisaged'.

IAG have offered no guarantees that they will not import scab labour from Britain to intervene in any dispute – even though the union, IMPACT requested this.

They have offered no firm guarantees that there will be no outsourcing of cabin crew.

The Fine Gael-Labour government say that all of this does not matter because they will continue to hold a ‘golden share’. This means a nominal share that can be used to out vote other shareholders on specific issues.

But ‘golden shares’ are only used for a limited period to smooth the way to full privatisation. There is then a high likelihood that they are declared illegal by an EU court if they persist. The British government’s golden share in BAA, the airports authority, was ruled illegal by European courts in 2003. So too was the Portuguese government’s golden share in Energias de Portugal.

The plain reality is that the government stake in Aer Lingus is being sold off so that the Fine Gael-Labour government can get hold of some cash to try to offer some pre-election goodies.

It is a disgrace that a government stake in a company which made profits of €70 million last year is being sold for this reason.

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