Irish national airline Aer Lingus has announced that it will temporarily lay off 129 employees at Shannon Airport. The layoffs will come into effect on Monday, March 8th, and last until June 7th. Workers will receive no pay during those three months. Trade unions are calling it a ‘devastating blow’ for the staff who have already been on reduced earnings since the start of the pandemic.
Unsustainable to maintain operations
Aer Lingus has not operated any flights out of the airport since April 2020. Furthermore, it does not plan to return to Shannon until July this year. Thus, the airline said, it is unsustainable to continue to roster staff to the current levels.
The move will affect all of the carrier’s 129 ground and cabin crew based at the airport. The layoffs may be subject to further extension or change based on work requirements in Shannon, an Aer Lingus spokesperson told Simple Flying.
Meanwhile, Aer Lingus employees are ‘devastated’, trade union Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union – SIPTU – told the Independent. The union represents 80 of the workers affected by the Shannon cuts.
“This announcement and the fact that Aer Lingus will not have operations from Shannon until at least June 2021 highlights the pressing need for the Government to provide additional supports to aviation workers generally,” SIPTU sector organizer Neil McGowan said
“The industry will simply not survive without significant supports for workers and employers across the Aviation industry,” he continued.
Recovery loan is not enough
Aer Lingus recently secured a €150million ($180 million) loan as part of a recovery fund made available by the Irish government. However, the carrier also announced an operating loss of €361 million ($434 million) for 2020. The airline said that this represented the largest ever loss in its history and demonstrated the profound impact of COVID-19.
Along with the unions, other voices are being raised for the government to step up its efforts for specific aviation industry support. Senator Timmy Dooley of County Clare on Monday tweeted a response to the news of the Shannon Airport layoffs.
Aer Lingus announcement at Shannon of temporary layoffs for 3 months is another body blow to The Mid West aviation and tourism sector – Government needs to do much more for this sector @ClareFM @theclareherald @ClareEcho @ClareChampion
— Timmy Dooley (@timmydooley) March 1, 2021
Total redundancies over 500
Aer Lingus’ chief executive Donal Moriarty told the Irish Times last week that he expected total redundancies at the airline to number between 500 and 600 of its over 4,000 staff. Mr Moriarty also urged the government to take steps to restart travel as quickly as possible. This should involve plans for verification testing, as well as airport testing, he said.
While the UK has announced a tentative roadmap that would see the country reopening international travel by May 17th, Ireland is expected to remain closed off for longer. As such, there is speculation that IAG could move even more of Aer Lingus’ aircraft to airports such as Manchester to still be able to make the most of the summer season.