The Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) is under mounting pressure to cut passenger delays as it also sustained heavy criticism over the terms and conditions on offer to security staff it is hiring to help with the queues.
Ministers have been told that the airport operator has stepped up its recruitment efforts. However, the semi-State company has been accused in the Dáil of a “race to the bottom” due to the working conditions on offer to new security workers.
Staff numbers at the airport were cut during the pandemic and the fall-off in travel, and DAA is now scrambling to recruit 300 people.
Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien – a TD for Dublin Fingal where the airport is located – wrote to the airport operator to raise concerns over the delays.
He said he was assured the DAA was “speeding up their recruitment process”, adding that he wanted “to see the situation addressed and rectified as soon as possible”.
Minister of State for Transport Hildegarde Naughton met DAA chief executive Dalton Philips on Wednesday. She is understood to have expressed her concern at the delays and the impact on passengers.
She was told that the DAA has stepped up recruitment since the weekend. Ms Naughton has requested a further briefing from the authority before the weekend.
The terms and conditions on offer to new security staff were criticised in the Dáil where the issue was raised with Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
Social Democrats TD Cian O'Callaghan said the DAA has been advertising to hire security staff who must be available for 40 hours per week but were only being guaranteed 20 hours work with a minimum weekly salary of €283.
“The DAA is clearly engaging in a race to the bottom, driving down working conditions,” he said.
Meanwhile, People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the terms were an "absolute insult".
The Taoiseach promised to raise the issue with the DAA. “There clearly should be a more worker-friendly approach than that,” he said.
Asked about the conditions, Mr Philips said the pay on offer was 35 per cent above the national minimum wage, and roles were pensionable with security of employment and other benefits.
The DAA chief executive told RTÉ Radio's News at One: "We need to recruit nearly 300 people. It is a very difficult market and this is a very skilled job."
He said new European legislation meant enhanced background checks were needed for airport employees and this “created a lot of challenge at the beginning of the year”.
Mr Philips apologised for the delays being experienced by passengers.
Joe O’Sullivan, a Siptu shop steward from the airport security unit, said while staff shortages in security had only come to wider public attention in recent days, the difficulties had been building for some time.
Mr O’Sullivan suggested that a wide range of factors fed into the passenger delays, but that the loss of so many experienced security staff during the pandemic combined with the challenge of hiring replacements on what could be regarded as relatively poor pay and conditions were “paramount”.
“Money, terms and conditions, if they were improved it would definitely help to alleviate the problems with the existing staff that are there, and it would help the company to get new staff in.”
He said the union was resubmitting a pay claim for security workers, and he did not rule out the possibility of future industrial action.