Aer Lingus is laying off more than 60 contract workers who argue they qualify for Government payments to businesses that keep staff in jobs during the coronavirus crisis.
The airline told staff last week that it was cutting pay by 50 per cent in an effort to see the company through the coronavirus pandemic that has grounded flights across Europe and the United States and brought its industry to a standstill.
Aer Lingus informed 62 staff who aid passengers in checking in bags and boarding flights that it would not be able to renew their contracts, which end this Saturday, March 28th.
The staff are paid €455 a week before tax and employed on fixed-term contracts that are due to end on Saturday.
Some of those involved have been working for Aer Lingus for several years as the company has renewed their contracts as the terms of each ended.
Managers told those involved last week. The airline confirmed it in writing on Wednesday, after the Government said it would pay employers 70 per cent of workers’ gross pay, up to a maximum of €410 a week, where they kept staff in jobs.
Workers involved argue that Aer Lingus should reconsider its decision in light of the Government’s pledge. “We could benefit from the Government support plan and after the crisis we would still be employed,” said one.
Neil McGowan, aviation sector organiser with Siptu, said that the trade union intended raising the issue on a conference call with Aer Lingus today.
He added that the company had agreed to keep on a small number of workers on fixed-term contracts following representations from his organisation. “This is something that we have put on the agenda,” Mr McGowan said.
The union official noted that Siptu had raised the issue in light of the job retention plan that the Government announced on Tuesday. “We will be discussing how the company might utilise that scheme,” he said.
Aer Lingus could receive 70 per cent of the €455 a week gross pay that the workers involved earn if the job retention scheme was applied to them. That is a total of close to €320 a week for each employee.
The airline pointed out that the unprecedented fall in demand for air travel resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic forced it to respond accordingly.
“Aer Lingus has had to apply a range of measures including: not renewing contracts; releasing seasonal staff; and implementing a company-wide pay cut,” the airline said.
“We are engaging directly with our employees and their representatives.” The airline maintained that it had agreed these steps with the unions representing its workforce.
Last week, the company told staff that it was slashing capacity by 75 per cent when compared to the same period last year.
Aer Lingus said that the changes it was making would be implemented as fairly as possible and at every level in the organisation. “They are intended to be emergency and temporary in nature,” the company told workers.
Covid-19 could cost European airlines €70 billion in lost ticket sales this year, according to industry estimates. The region’s carriers are seeking aid from governments and the EU to ensure that they stay in business.