Government must act to save Irish aviation industry

Airplane wings, representing airline pilots

Fórsa this afternoon (Friday) called on the Government to act swiftly to ensure that Ireland has an aviation industry after the Covid-19 health crisis is over.

The union, which represents workers in all Irish-based airlines, airports and airport authorities, said there was a danger that the industry would be so weakened over the coming months that it would be unrecognisable by the end of the year. It said regional airports were particularly vulnerable.

Fórsa said a Government indication that its wage subsidy scheme would remain in place until 11th June was the first step in underpinning the sector, because it would reduce the pressure on aviation employers to downsize.

The union said airlines and other aviation companies would need skilled and experienced staff in place in order to bounce back when Covid restrictions ease.

In a conference call with unions today, Aer Lingus said it was anticipating a reduction of up to 20% of its workforce. The airline said it would be putting forward proposals for a voluntary redundancy scheme, and that it would also seek changes to current arrangements for pay, working time and work practices.

It made no specific proposals in this regard, and Fórsa expects proposals to be made next week.

Fórsa’s head of Services & Enterprises Angela Kirk said, “The unions recognise that the entire aviation industry is facing its biggest crisis in a lifetime, and we will work with aviation employers to ensure the maximum possible protection to jobs, incomes, and an industry that has served the people of Ireland well.

“We’ve sought that pay arrangements currently in place be extended until 21st June as a minimum. We pointed out that the wage subsidy scheme was of considerable financial benefit to the company and the extension of the current arrangements until that date is affordable.

“We’re awaiting proposals on what we expect to be a voluntary redundancy package, and we’ve told the company that there will need to be discussions on any proposed changes to work practices and working time,” she said.

In a letter to the union this morning, following its statement the financial markets, Ryanair management said it estimated that up to 3,000 job cuts and/or pay cuts of up to 20% would be required across the network. Fórsa officials are expected to engage with Ryanair in the coming days.