‘Devastating’ Aer Lingus layoffs at Cork Airport will hit region 'badly'

‘Devastating’ Aer Lingus layoffs at Cork Airport will hit region 'badly'

The announcement of temporary layoffs at Aer Lingus comes after the airline issued financial results which showed a loss of €103m in the first three months of 2021 on top of a loss of €361m in 2020. Picture: Larry Cummins

THERE have been calls for action from Government to assist the aviation sector following the “devastating” announcement that almost 200 Aer Lingus staff in Cork are to be temporarily laid off.

Aer Lingus yesterday confirmed that 198 cabin crew and ground staff in its Cork base are to be laid off for two months as the airline announced the closure of its base at Cork airport from September until November. The airline also announced the permanent closure of its cabin crew base at Shannon airport.

There are approximately 60 ground staff and 138 cabin crew in the Cork base who will be laid off from early September until late November.

Following the announcement, Sinn Féin TD for Cork South-Central, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire criticised the lack of action by the Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan, and called on him to engage with Aer Lingus immediately to try and “save as many jobs as possible”.

In a statement, Aer Lingus confirmed to staff that the airline will emerge smaller from the pandemic, and that there will be a requirement for redundancies.

They warned that there is potential for more layoffs.

Lord Mayor of Cork, Fine Gael councillor Joe Kavanagh, expressed his disappointment following the news of the temporary closure of the Cork base.

He said that he is “disappointed for the loyal workers of Aer Lingus”.

“It’s so disappointing for the local economy,” he said. 

“It’s so disappointing for our people and for the many families that will be adversely affected by this. I’m absolutely devastated, to be honest.”

He also noted the importance of tourism for the southern region.

“To have Cork Airport affected by this, and Shannon, the whole region is going to be hit badly, and I think it’s something that the Government are going to have to take on board,” he said.

The staff will be laid off without pay from September 12 to November 22, and the airport will be closed while an upgrade of its main runway is carried out.

The announcement comes after the airline revealed a loss of €103m in the first three months of 2021, on top of a loss of €361m in 2020.

Siptu, which represents the 60 ground staff at Cork Airport who will be impacted by the temporary closure, said members are devastated by the news.

The main runway at Cork Airport, the second-busiest in the country that is set for significant resurfacing work.
The main runway at Cork Airport, the second-busiest in the country that is set for significant resurfacing work.

Speaking to The Echo, Siptu sector organiser Neil McGowan said: “This layoff is only due to come into effect on September 12, so people are obviously still digesting the news and devastated by what they have been told, but there is further uncertainty in regards to what that is going to mean for them by the time the layoff comes.

“This is all against the backdrop of 12 months of people not taking home a full week’s wage.”

Mr McGowan said that the workers in Cork Airport are currently earning 60% of what they would usually be paid before Covid-19.

“This announcement is just a further blow to people,” he said.

Meanwhile, Fórsa has called for urgent Government action, including a bespoke aviation income support scheme.

The union met Aer Lingus management yesterday on foot of what the union described as “devastating announcements”.

Ashley Connolly, who heads Fórsa’s Services and Enterprises division, said the news might have been avoided if the Government had moved faster to implement supports and provided a clearer roadmap on the resumption of international travel.

“The Government needs to decide if the crisis in this vital industry is to be permanent or temporary,” she said.

“Only the State has the power and resources to preserve Ireland’s vital international connectivity — the connectivity that supports thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said that the transport minister has taken an “unacceptable hands-off approach to aviation”.

“The Government’s lack of action now risks costing jobs in Cork,” he said. “We still have no commitment to long-term additional operational and capital funding for the airport.” He said he sees “no reason why Aer Lingus cannot keep these workers on the books, with the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme, supporting them as required”.

“They have a duty to their workers, and they should stick to it,” he said. “It is very worrying for the airport, for the region, but more importantly for workers and their families.”

He called for the transport minister to engage with Aer Lingus immediately to try to “save as many jobs as possible, and to keep them employed for this period”.

“The Government needs to seriously wake up when it comes to aviation — it cannot recover without a plan and supports,” he said.

Fianna Fáil TD James O’Connor said the announcement was “avoidable”.

He said: “I think the Government must now heavily reflect on the fact that these decisions were not taken from the perspective of a lack of demand being there, it’s because of current Government policy. This situation is still retrievable if the Department of Transport are serious about tackling it.”

The Joint Committee on Transport and Communications Networks will meet today with Willie Walsh, the director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association.

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