Social dialogue key to aviation recovery

Fórsa welcomes Oireachtas aviation report and calls upon minister to pursue social dialogue path to sector recovery.

Fórsa trade union, which represents several thousand aviation workers in airports, regulatory bodies, international air traffic support and airlines, has welcomed the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications Networks – Issues affecting the Aviation Industry – which was launched today (Wednesday 9th December).

The union welcomed specific recommendations included in the report, which is to go to Government for further consideration. Fórsa reiterated its call for a “joined-up” approach by the Government to ensure the survival of Ireland’s aviation industry, and called upon Hildegarde Naughton TD, Minister of State with responsibility for transport, to pursue a path of social dialogue in order to achieve this.

Fórsa believes the future of Irish aviation relies on utilising social dialogue as the means to making sure we have a sustainable and thriving aviation industry as the world emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fórsa spokesperson Ashley Connolly, said the union welcomed the report’s recommendation for the development of a new national aviation policy: “Fórsa has continued to emphasise the strategic importance of our aviation industry since this crisis began. Its survival beyond this crisis demands a well-coordinated and integrated national policy, and for this policy to remain a priority for Government.

“To that end Fórsa has continued to emphasise the need for an inclusive approach and this report was produced with input from a wide range of aviation stakeholders.

“Fórsa believes the future of Irish aviation relies on extending this approach and utilising social dialogue as the means to making sure we have a sustainable and thriving aviation industry as the world emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic,” Ms Connolly said.

‘Heavy lifting’

The union said state supports for Irish airports, state funding for strategic air routes and engagement with the European Commission, to seek a derogation from state aid rules for emergency funding to Irish airports, were measures that could be more successfully pursued if developed through a platform of social dialogue.

Ms Connolly added: “The recommendations demand some heavy lifting by the Government, with no room for half-measures or oversights on specific policy issues. Working together through a social dialogue model would ensure that all the available expertise and stakeholder knowledge about how to protect our aviation infrastructure is employed in the process of delivering on these recommendations.”

Fórsa said measures to maintain the link between employers and employees in the aviation sector, through the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) and other state supports, was also welcome, but must be provided on the basis of no compulsory redundancies of staff, or any offshoring of work currently undertaken by workers in Ireland.

A cap of €50 per test removes what is currently a substantial cost barrier to those who need to travel.

Fórsa said the recommendation for the Government to provide support to ensure that PCR testing is priced competitively and affordably was welcome, and responded directly to a concern raised by Fórsa when it presented to the Oireachtas network in November: “A cap of €50 per test removes what is currently a substantial cost barrier to those who need to travel.

“This measure, in addition to pre-departure testing requirements for travellers from “orange” and “red” regions, and the development of a traffic light system for countries outside of the EU, would allow greater numbers of passengers to travel responsibly and safely with greater peace of mind,” Ms Connolly said.

She added that the union gave a guarded welcome to the report’s recommendation to re-establish a State Airports Authority, encompassing Dublin, Shannon and Cork airports, with the three state transport companies operating under the overall umbrella of the parent company: “While the reintegration of Shannon into the DAA group would be more desirable, this measure nevertheless recognises the need to maintain a co-ordinated approach to ensure each of these airports operates on a sustainable footing to get beyond the current crisis,” Ms Connolly said.