Stobart Air workers face delays in getting wages promised

Staff who transferred to airline’s Belfast base last year fear for redundancy payments

Stobart Air ceased trading two weeks ago when its British owner, Esken, ended financial support. Photograph: iStock

Stobart Air ceased trading two weeks ago when its British owner, Esken, ended financial support. Photograph: iStock

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Stobart Air workers face delays in getting wages promised when the airline folded, while staff who transferred to its Belfast base last year fear for their redundancy payments.

The Irish carrier ceased trading two weeks ago when its British owner, Esken, ended financial support after a potential buyer for the airline failed to raise the cash needed.

As a goodwill gesture, Esken pledged to pay Stobart’s 480 workers all wages due up to the provisional liquidators’ appointment to the airline on June 14th.

However, the liquidators, who are facilitating the payment, told workers on Friday that company payroll staff needed more time to amend records, so the salary will not be paid as scheduled on Tuesday, June 29th.

Liquidators Ken Fennell and Mark Degnan of Deloitte Ireland say in a note that they are doing everything possible to speed up the payment and will update workers at a meeting next Tuesday.

Part of the problem is rooted in the fact that Stobart’s UK and Isle of Man subsidiaries have ceased trading but are not in liquidation. It is understood that this has created technical issues for payroll staff.

The liquidators note that in most liquidations workers are left without any pay for up to 12 weeks while the State processes claims. Esken stepping in removed that lengthy wait, they say.

It has also emerged that Stobart employees who moved to its Belfast base from Dublin last year fear they will receive little or no redundancy payments, as they transferred to the UK subsidiary, so different laws govern their entitlements.

Those pilots, cabin crew and other workers are on temporary layoff pending the possible appointment of liquidators to Stobart Air UK and Isle of Man, which may happen next month.

However, workers who transferred to the Belfast base from the Republic last year believe they may not have enough service with the UK subsidiary to qualify for statutory redundancy payments under British law, despite having worked for the Irish company for years.

Travel restrictions

Evan Cullen, president of the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa), said that onerous travel restrictions had forced members to relinquish long service to avoid the threat of layoff in the Republic and work for Stobart Air UK.

“In the event that Stobart Air UK fails then these pilots will lose all statutory entitlements as they have very little service in UK,” he said.

Stobart workers said the delay in getting their final salary threatened to leave them falling behind on home repayments and bills.

In some families’ cases, two parents worked for Stobart, while other staff have spouses or partners working elsewhere in aviation, who are either laid off or on reduced pay.

“Our mortgage was due to come out of that money, I have phone bills and an ESB bill,” said one.

Capt Cullen said Ialpa had been warning Government for the last 15 months of the consequences of its “repressive policies on aviation” on workers’ livelihoods. “Our calls for action repeatedly fell on deaf or indifferent ears,” he added.