Social welfare ‘chaos’ experienced by airline staff

Pay-cut Aer Lingus employees complain of forms with errors and inconsistent outcomes

One Cork-based worker said: “I’m still not getting forms back signed and stamped from Aer Lingus. It’s a disgrace.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne

One Cork-based worker said: “I’m still not getting forms back signed and stamped from Aer Lingus. It’s a disgrace.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Aer Lingus workers who are living in “near poverty” since their pay was reduced due to the Covid-19 pandemic claim they are experiencing “chaos” as they try to access social welfare entitlements.

They say the company is delaying sending forms which they need to claim jobseekers benefit and supports, and issuing them with errors. These errors include stating employees worked fewer days than they did, incorrect addresses and wrong dates of employment commencement dates.

The workers also say local Intreo offices which process welfare claims are treating them inconsistently, with some awarding payments and some not.

A Dublin-based cabin crew member, who has seen her weekly income drop from about €700 to €350, said she had been awarded jobseekers’ benefit for the days she is not working, but she was aware of “organised chaos” as colleagues had not yet received forms they needed.

She said while her Intreo office approved her claim, other colleagues using the same office had been refused.

UP80 forms

It remains unclear whether the airline workers, whose reduced wages were subsidised by the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) from March until September 1st, when they moved onto the Employee Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), are entitled to back-payments. Although many applied for the payment from March, they said Aer Lingus had not returned the required UP80 forms.

One Cork-based worker said: “I’m still not getting forms back signed and stamped from Aer Lingus. It’s a disgrace. The stress and anxiety this is causing all the crew is completely outrageous.”

On September 17th, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys told the Dáil she could not understand why “an organisation the size of Aer Lingus, with a dedicated HR department, has had problems in interpreting the criteria around EWSS and short-term work when many small businesses throughout the country have had no such issue”.

‘Matter of urgency’

She said she had been assured by the company that outstanding documentation for welfare supports would be issued.

A spokeswoman said Aer Lingus had issued more than 4,000 UP80 forms to staff.

“In most cases we understand that claims and payments arising have been processed,” she said. “Aer Lingus continues to engage constructively with the Department of Social Protection on ensuring a streamlined process and has dedicated increased resources into completing any forms received.”

The department said it was processing claims as a “matter of urgency”.

Senator Regina Doherty, the former minister for social protection, said there was “mass confusion”.

“I have written to management in Aer Lingus to ask them to allocate current staff, whose workloads are much less than usual, into the HR department to assist in clearing the backlog of unsigned jobseekers’ application forms, and ensuring a much quicker turnaround in the future,” she said.