Mixed messages on travel put aviation jobs in peril, Fórsa says

Clear commitment from Government sought amid Aer Lingus staff fears for future

“Cabin crew have endured over 14 months of pay-cuts, layoffs, redundancies and job insecurity,” says Ashley  Connolly of Fórsa.

“Cabin crew have endured over 14 months of pay-cuts, layoffs, redundancies and job insecurity,” says Ashley Connolly of Fórsa.

 

Contradictory signals from Government on plans to reopen international travel put thousands of jobs at risk, aviation workers’ representatives warned on Wednesday.

Ashley Connolly, national secretary of trade union Fórsa, which represents cabin crew whose jobs are threatened by airline Aer Lingus’s closure of its Shannon base and temporary layoffs at Cork, called on the Government to set plans to restart travel.

“The continued contradictory statements by various Ministers must stop, what is needed now is clarity. If we fail to provide the certainty required, the aviation sector may never recover,” she said.

“We are putting at risk thousands of jobs, employers have the ability to move aircraft to more open markets to meet demand. Ireland cannot afford to be left behind.”

Ms Connolly told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications Networks that the industry needs a clear commitment from Government on Friday on how and when travel can resume.

Sara O’Leary, senior crew member at Cork Airport, where Aer Lingus staff will be laid off from September to November while work goes ahead on the runway there, said colleagues feared for their futures.

School and Christmas

“Nobody has confirmed that it’s just for 10 weeks, nobody has confirmed what pay we will be going back on,” she pointed out.

Ms O’Leary added that the company was laying people off at a time when they would face the cost of children returning to school, while it would be close to Christmas by the time they were paid after coming back to work.

Mary Mulholland, her colleague at Shannon Airport, where 83 crew members are among 126 workers facing the possible loss of their jobs, warned that the workers and their families would end up “dependant on the State” as a consequence.

If the decision was not reversed, the recovery would come too late for those people and their families, she added. “I will be gone, so I am taking the opportunity now to ask you to advocate for me,” Ms Mulholland told committee members.

Ms Connolly argued that Aer Lingus may not have decided to close Shannon had Government moved more quickly with aid for aviation.

“You have been too slow and as a result there is potential for Shannon cabin crew to lose their jobs,” she said.

Fórsa is demanding that the Government continues to provide employee wage supports to aviation workers.

“Cabin crew have endured over 14 months of pay cuts, lay-offs, redundancies and job insecurity,” said Ms Connolly, adding that this had put them and their families under massive strain.

Covid-19 passport

The Government is due to announce plans to reopen international travel on Friday.

This will include a pledge to join the proposed EU digital Covid-19 passport, meant to restore holiday travel throughout the bloc, including the Republic.

Ms Connolly urged the Government to introduce this at the beginning of July rather than waiting the six weeks allowed by the EU Commission to implement the plan.

Commission officials this week confirmed that member countries had up to six weeks from July 1st to introduce the certificates, but said that ideally states should move as quickly as possible.

Fórsa is also seeking quick reopening of travel with the US, whose residents are subject to the Republic’s draconian hotel quarantine when they arrive here, even if they have been vaccinated.

Ms Connolly also asked at the committee “what has happened to the common travel area” with the UK. Government sources last week signalled that the Republic could open a travel corridor with the UK.

Co Clare Fianna Fáil Senator and committee member Timmy Dooley said he was frustrated with the Government’s inaction on travel and disappointed with his own party.

“I am frustrated with the mandatory hotel quarantine and I am frustrated with the focus on non-essential travel,” he added.