Aer Lingus asking staff to move from Ireland to UK, Dáil told

Airline considering transfer of routes from Cork and Shannon to Belfast

Labour transport spokesman Duncan Smith said that ‘four Aer Lingus aeroplanes that would otherwise have taken off from Ireland will now be taking off from Manchester’. File photograph: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

Labour transport spokesman Duncan Smith said that ‘four Aer Lingus aeroplanes that would otherwise have taken off from Ireland will now be taking off from Manchester’. File photograph: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

 

Aer Lingus is asking staff in Ireland to move to Manchester where the company is expanding air services, the Dáil has been told.

Sinn Féin transport spokesman Darren O’Rourke said the airline is also considering transferring routes from Cork and Shannon to Belfast.

And Labour transport spokesman Duncan Smith warned that jobs are being lost in “dribs and drabs” with positions as baggage handlers, fuellers and other roles going in “ones, twos, sixes and dozens”.

Mr O’Rourke said it was “very concerning” that employees were being asked to base themselves in Manchester on Manchester terms and conditions.

The Meath East TD said this was happening because there is “such uncertainty” in the Government’s response and commitment to the aviation sector.

Pointing to supports from other governments he said “Air New Zealand got an investment of $900 million, while Air France got €7 billion and Lufthansa got €10 billion”.

Mr O’Rourke asked the level of lay-offs the Minister is expecting in the sector and said there are proposals by unions to adopt a German model of support for workers but the Government had not taken it up.

Minister of State for aviation Hildegarde Naughton stressed the Government’s commitment to the industry, said the State was taking the issue extremely seriously and pointed to more than €200 million of supports granted to the aviation sector.

“The airports and airlines have had access to that funding, which includes the temporary wage subsidy schemes and other supports.”

She said the Government agreed a revised funding package of €80 million specifically for Irish aviation in 2021 and more than €21 million will go to regional airports.

Ms Naughton insisted that the sector is “critical” to the Government, which would continue to support the sector and is in regular touch with stakeholders.

She said a roadmap for recovery would be in place at the appropriate time, “while obviously taking into account the public health measures and what is happening at EU and UK levels”.

Labour transport spokesman Duncan Smith said however that “four Aer Lingus aeroplanes that would otherwise have taken off from Ireland will now be taking off from Manchester”.

He warned that job losses would not occur as “one big event. Jobs are going to go in dribs and drabs. They will be shaved off.

“That’s what’s happening. When four aeroplanes that were resident in Ireland go, they are gone and the jobs will go with them. Baggage handlers are going. Fuellers are going. They are going in ones, two, sixes and dozens, but they are going. Their livelihoods are gone.

“That is happening right now and there is deafening silence from the Government on the issue. It is the same thing over and over again.”

Ms Naughten said she is equally concerned about protecting jobs and that is why she is engaging with those at the coalface within the industry “around what that reopening will look like when the public heath advice is there”.

“Now is the time to be working on that and to protect as many jobs as possible. That is the work I am doing with my officials within the national civil aviation forum.”

The Minister said “we know there are going to be changes and this is a moving roadmap as to what recovery will look like. In the meantime, we must try to support the industry as best we can and support that connectivity.”