Irish national flag carrier Aer Lingus intends to lay off staff starting in June. This is when an Irish government wage subsidy scheme comes to an end. After a devastating first quarter brought on by the coronavirus, cabin crew union official Angela Kirk issued a statement yesterday. She says that the move was premature.
When speaking with the press on Friday, the Fórsa union representative said,
“There remains a full month to explore and negotiate available options while unprecedented support from the State remains in place.”
IAG owns Aer Lingus
Following a meeting between the IAG owned airline and staff unions, Fórsa said it had been told that the existing arrangements would continue until June 21. Currently, Aer Lingus employees receive half of their salary, with the other 50% coming from the Irish government’s wage subsidy scheme.
When speaking about the airline’s plans, Fórsa official Angela Kirk told the Irish Times,
“The effect of Covid-19 is not just an issue for Aer Lingus and its staff. It’s the most significant crisis for the entire Irish aviation industry in a generation, with the potential to adversely affect the commercial connectivity of the country.
“To act unilaterally now, and to abandon the efforts to negotiate a solution to the current crisis, and plan for a future recovery is to squander the time remaining to negotiate real solutions.
“Nobody is pretending it will be easy, but to shut the door on discussions with a month of state-subsidized support still to go is not the way to solve the enormous challenges faced by the industry.”
She continued to state that this is a severe development. The unions are resolved to continue to protect the position of its members. Additionally, it wants to protect to the greatest possible extent the earnings and living standards of members. It will be engaging with its cabin crew and other grade representatives in the coming days.
The decline in passenger numbers is shocking
When talking about the crippling effect the COVID-19 crisis had had on the airline Aer Lingus chief executive, Sean Doyle came out with a startling comparison. On the same day a year earlier, Aer Lingus carried 18,361 passengers while this Friday the number was down to just 939.
“As you are all too well aware, we are now in the deepest downturn that the aviation industry has ever experienced,” he said.
After having already implemented steep pay cuts for workers in March, Aer Lingus told unions that the pandemic would force it to lay off workers. The current speculation is that at least 900 of the existing 4,500 employees would have to go.
When adding to his earlier comments, Mr. Doyle said,
“Throughout the crisis, we have engaged with all the senior members of the relevant representative bodies.
“This engagement has been constructive and respectful. However, unfortunately, it has not as yet resulted in an agreed way forward.”
“There is now an urgent requirement to make further cost reductions given the decimation in demand for travel in the immediate term, and the uncertainty regarding future travel demand thereafter.”
People are going to lose their jobs
We don’t know the official number of people who are going to lose their jobs with Aer Lingus. However, this process indeed seems to be an industry trend. The unions may call the move to reduce staffing levels premature. They may say that there is still a month left to negotiate. However, cuts will come no matter what.
Airlines around the world are worried and quite rightly so that passenger numbers will be down due to the coronavirus. Many airline executives are predicting that it could take three years to bounce back.
The truth is none of us know what is going to happen. For now, it is just a lot of talk about face masks, social distancing, and how airlines are going to manage all this. Once that is all sorted out, and there are rules in place, it will then be up to the airlines to convince people that it is safe to fly. Should a second wave of the coronavirus hit this winter as many epidemiologists are predicting, then all bets are off as to how airlines will cope.
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