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Fears for Aer Lingus Shannon base

WITH Aer Lingus having lost more than €1.5 million per day since the pandemic struck, it has warned that its Shannon base is at risk.

In a statement last week the former national carrier warned of major cutbacks and it sought to put some of the blame on its workers and the Irish Government.

“The catastrophic impact of COVID-19 on the aviation sector has been compounded in Ireland by the implementation of the most restrictive travel policies in Europe and the failure to implement supports for the sector. Aer Lingus has also not made the required progress on the implementation of industry standard work practices with key cohorts of employees.

” In this context and given the Aer Lingus quarterly results today, significant redundancies are required across the business. The redundancies will be on a voluntary basis if possible but may be implemented compulsorily if required. Consultations are ongoing with the relevant representative bodies in this regard. Aer Lingus is also reviewing the scale of our flying programme from Cork and Shannon Airports and the ongoing viability of our regional bases there.”

The results referred to show a loss of €316 million in the first half of the year, and with business having been relatively unaffected by Covid-19 in the early months, it’s clear that there has been a catastrophic drop off since then.

Aer Lingus operates some of the most important services at Shannon, with routes to Boston, New York and Heathrow, although none of these are currently operational.

Clare TD Cathal Crowe urged the airline not to make compulsory redundancies at Shannon. “COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the aviation industry and travel sectors and everybody realises that. However, I would urge the airline to reconsider redundancies at the Shannon operation as it will have a devastating impact on the local economy. While the airline has said significant redundancies are required across the business, workers are now fearful that there will be significant cuts in Shannon.

“I am appealing to Aer Lingus bosses to look at every approach before making decisions on redundancies and services,” concluded Deputy Crowe.

The State no longer has a share in Aer Lingus, but Sinn Féin’s Violet Anne Wynne called on the Government to use whatever influence it has to protect the Shannon workers. “Workers were devastated to hear the recent announcement from Aer Lingus in relation to potential job losses at Shannon Airport.

“Sinn Féin have for weeks now been calling on the government to step up and intervene on the matter. Workers are at their wits’ end with worry. They are frustrated by the lack of action and now fear for their own jobs and the knock-on effect for employment prospects in the region with the very viability of Shannon Airport now under serious threat.”

Ms Wynne said that the Government has displayed a lack of urgency towards the plight of the employees and the region. “”Shannon Airport is vital for the viability of the tourism sector and the entire economy right across the Mid-West region and deserves more than this apathy from government.

“I addressed SIPTU representatives at the Oireachtas Covid-19 Committee on Tuesday and was appalled to hear that they had been writing to the Minister for Transport without receiving a response.

“This kind of disregard is not good enough – it is a smack in the face for workers. Those affected rightly feel this is a slight on our region.”

More broadly, she said the separation of Shannon from the other State airports has failed. “The decision to separate Shannon Airport from the Dublin Airport Authority in 2012 has proved a disaster. Sinn Féin, along with the trade union movement, opposed the separation then and, unfortunately, the passenger traffic numbers pre-Covid vindicated our stance.

“It is now time for the government to admit their failure and agree to the amalgamation of Shannon Airport under the DAA once again. The unions have also added their voice to this call.

“Governments elsewhere have provided huge amounts of state funding to the airlines in an effort to salvage the aviation sector during this crisis yet ours to date has been silent on the matter.”

Fine Gael’s Joe Carey also called on Aer Lingus not to follow through on its threats. “I strongly urge Aer Lingus to pull back from the brink and hold off making any premature decisions in relation to jobs cuts or its operations in Shannon.

“The Government has stepped in to provide support in the form of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and the airline can lean on this financial crutch for the foreseeable future as we try to navigate a route through these turbulent times.”

Deputy Carey added,”Aer Lingus must show some loyalty to its employees in Shannon and to the people of Clare and the Mid-West. When the airline was acquired by IAG in 2015 commitments were given in relation to the operation of its Shannon-Heathrow route and to transatlantic flights operating to and from the airport. It’s critical now that Aer Lingus reaffirms its commitment to retain its base at Shannon.”

He warned that the loss of the Aer Lingus base at Shannon would be “catastrophic” for the region.

“The Aer Lingus base at Shannon Airport is crucial to Clare and the entire Mid-West and western regions in terms of connectivity for business and tourism.

“The Shannon-Heathrow route is of vital importance to our large Foreign Direct Investment footprint in the region, providing global connectivity to Shannon. Any change in this status would be catastrophic for the region, as would a reduction in routes to and from North America as they deliver the essential tourism traffic that so many businesses depend upon along the west coast.

“The Mid-West is heavily dependent on aviation as a driver of economic activity. It’s vital that the Government recognises this and that every effort is made to protect jobs in the sector and the hugely important business and tourism connectivity for the Mid-West and Western region.”

Owen Ryan

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

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