Staff at Shannon Airport are facing pay cuts of 20%, further temporary lay offs, and the introduction of a voluntary severance scheme, in order to address the catastrophic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the aviation and tourism sector.

In a letter to the 230 staff, Shannon Group CEO Mary Considine warned that the outlook for this year and beyond is stark, and the scale of the challenge facing the airport is unprecedented.

Passenger numbers are down 96% since Covid-19 hit in March and grounded all air traffic, and economic forecasts are predicting that it could be at least three years before there is a return to 2019 levels.

The airport has already introduced temporary lay-offs and a shorter working week for the majority of employees, and the elimination of all contractor costs.

But these initiatives are not enough to bring the airport to anywhere close to break-even in the medium term.

A 20% pay cut over the next two-and-a-half years beginning in September 2020 for all staff earning over €30,000, as well as the introduction of a voluntary severance scheme, career breaks of up to three years and further short time and temporary lay offs are among the more substantial measures now being introduced to reduce the airports cost base.

Ms Considine said the aim of the measures is to allow them to secure the future of the airport to enable them to rebuild and serve the travel and business needs of customers when the aviation sector recovers.

A series of briefings with staff on the measures will begin this week. In a statement confirming the list of cost reduction proposals a spokesperson said as they are in dialogue with employees and it would be inappropriate to comment further.

Local Clare Fianna Fáil TD Cathal Crowe said this is devastating news for workers at Shannon airport.

He said while he knows the airport is under immense pressure, they could have waited for the aviation taskforce to conclude its work, which is just days away, before considering staff reductions.

The Shannon Airport Group of Unions has rejected the recovery plan.

Representatives of SIPTU, Connect and Fórsa, said the proposal to cut staff is completely unacceptable and the lack of consultation with staff "appalling".

SIPTU sector organiser, Neil McGowan, said the terms of the voluntary redundancy scheme has not been discussed with the unions and is not acceptable to them.

"The proposal put out by management yesterday are nothing short of disgraceful, we will be demanding the proposals are withdrawn and meaningful negotiations commence without delay.

"We will be consulting our members in the coming days to discuss the best means of defending the interests of Shannon Airport workers."