Aer Lingus have announced that its staff at Shannon Airport will be laid off the next three months.
129 inflight service and ground operations staff working for Aer Lingus at Shannon Airport will be put on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment for the three-month duration of the lay-offs. They had been on the temporary wage subsidy scheme and more recently on the employment wage subsidy.
Full year results of Aer Lingus were published on Friday which showed a record operating loss of €361m for 2020. “This represents the largest ever loss in the airline’s history and demonstrates the profound impact of COVID-19,” a statement from the carrier outlined.
No Aer Lingus flights have operated to or from Shannon Airport since April 5th 2020. As part of a review of its operations at Shannon, the airline concluded “that it is not sustainable to continue to roster staff to the current levels when there is no work available” leading to the temporary unpaid lay-offs of all 129 Inflight Service and Ground Operations March 8th to June 7th of this year.
A spokesperson revealed, “This may also be subject to further extension or change based on work requirements in Shannon”. A “clear exit plan” from the current restrictions has been sought by Aer Lingus.
Clare TD, Cathal Crowe (FF) said the decision was “majorly disappointing and a real blow for its Shannon workers, who have faced almost a year of stress and anxiety about their jobs”. He noted that Aer Lingus received a €150m state loan from Pandemic Stabilisation and Recovery Fund.
Crowe who is Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on aviation called for a pathway back to flights. “As people continue to be vaccinated on an accelerated basis, we need to examine the possibility of a Covid passport, so that those who have been immunised can take to the skies again. I would also question if Aer Lingus should still be continuing to advertise flights from Shannon.
“I’ve been made aware of a number of people who have booked flights for down the line under the illusion that they would be flying from Shannon, only to receive an automated email to say that they will in fact be flying from Dublin instead. This, at a time when aviation is at its lowest ebb, builds false hope in consumers and is misleading. If they’re flying from Dublin only – which, let me stress, nobody likes – then they need to be honest with customer base at this time,” the Meelick native added.
SIPTU’s Aviation Sectoral head Neil McGowan, who represents ground and ramp staff at Shannon, said it was devastating news for the staff. He stressed the need for further Government supports for the aviation sector and flagged that it will be the last sector to recover from this crisis.
Senator Timmy Dooley (FF) accused Aer Lingus of having “a very short-sighted approach” by failing to recognise the loyalty of its staff in what he termed “another body blow to the Mid-West aviation and tourism sector”.
Dooley stated, “It is really disappointing that Aer Lingus are treating their loyal staff in such a manner – they have remained loyal to the brand over the years and it’s a foolhardy move to force them onto social welfare for the next three months. Aer Lingus should think of the long-term damage to the brand by this action. The aviation sector is facing unprecedented challenges due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Government needs to do much more for the tourism and aviation sector”.