Call for collective approach to aviation challenges

Fórsa leader calls on Government to engage collectively with all interests in the aviation sector as problems set to continue for a ‘prolonged period’

Fórsa general secretary and vice-president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) Kevin Callinan, has called on the Government to engage collectively with all interests directly involved in the aviation sector.

He said that the challenges and severe difficulties facing workers, and the companies that employ them, in recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, will continue for a prolonged period.

Fórsa represents members employed throughout the Irish aviation industry, including Aer Lingus and Ryanair, as well as staff at the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) and Dublin Airport Authority (DAA).

Mr Callinan said everyone recognises the role that a successful aviation sector has played in the Irish economy: “It’s vital for an island nation, with a significant dependence on tourism and overseas investment, to ensure that we collectively agree the right policies.

“This is essential to creating the right environment for a safe return to flying schedules, and for passengers and airline staff to feel confident and safe while doing so.

The current volley of exchanges over the airwaves serves no purpose. Conflicting opinion only adds to the confusion and uncertainty facing the thousands of workers employed in aviation.

“Public health concerns, and the advice of our medical and scientific experts, will be paramount in any policy decisions. It’s equally important that effective surveillance embraces the safety and health of all airport and airline staff,” he said.

In May this year the union called on the Government to act swiftly to ensure that Ireland has an aviation industry after the Covid-19 health crisis is over, and identified regional airports as being particularly vulnerable. Mr Callinan said the difficulties facing the sector should now be included as a key item on the agenda for a meeting ICTU has sought with the Taoiseach.

He added: “The current volley of exchanges over the airwaves serves no purpose. Conflicting opinion only adds to the confusion and uncertainty facing the thousands of workers employed in the sector.”

The union has previously criticised the manner in which some aviation employers have treated staff in recent months, despite receiving hundreds of thousands of Euro from the public purse.

Collectively agreeing the right policies is essential to creating the right environment for a safe return to flying schedules, and for passengers and airline staff to feel confident and safe while doing so.

Mr Callinan said the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme was put in place at the commencement of the lockdown to ensure that all employees remained part of the workforce. “What we need now is a specific long-term plan, involving the appropriate Government support, in order to deliver on this objective for the aviation sector.

“The announcements and threats of redundancies at some airlines runs contrary to this approach and is entirely inconsistent with the spirit in which we have collectively engaged with the challenges and hardships presented by the pandemic,” he said.

Mr Callinan said workers needed to be aware of the risk of inadvertently finding themselves unavailable for work in the event that they travelled abroad – in contravention of public health guidelines and Government advice – and are subsequently required to go into quarantine on their return.

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