Staff at Aer Lingus have been told that the airline will unilaterally lay off staff, cut hours and reduce pay after the Government's wage subsidy scheme expires on June 21st, according to Fórsa.

The union, which represents cabin crew and other grades at the company, said it had been informed of the company's stance at a meeting this afternoon involving unions led by ICTU and management.

Fórsa said the decision was premature as there remains a full month for options to be explored and negotiated.

Aer Lingus had previously signaled to unions that in order to cut costs in the face of the Covid-19 crisis, the company was seeking to reduce its 4,500-strong workforce by up to 20%.

Negotiations on the restructuring had been taking place between unions and management, but so far no agreement on the detail has been reached.

Fórsa said the airline has committed to continue paying staff 50% of their salaries until June 21, funded in part by the Government's wage subsidy scheme.

But after that the company has threatened to take unilateral action, including lay-offs and further reductions in pay and working hours, the union claimed.

"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," said Fórsa official Angela Kirk.

"Nobody is pretending it will be easy, but to shut the door on discussions with a month of state-subsidised support still to go, is not the way to solve the enormous challenges faced by the industry."

In a statement Aer Lingus said only that it is continuing to communicate directly with its employees and engage with their representative bodies.

However, sources close to the airline confirmed that CEO Sean Doyle had told staff this afternoon that the current pay arrangements will continue until mid-June.

But he also told them that after that changes would have to take place.

SIPTU, which also represents staff at Aer Lingus, called on the Government to extend the wage subsidy for aviation workers for the duration of the current crisis in the industry and urged the airline to continue current pay arrangements.

"While we fully accept that the airline is deeply affected by the Covid-19 crisis and the consequent downturn in aviation, it is vital that the company which has consistently made record breaking profits for a number of years prior, continues to supports its workers," said Neil McGowan, SIPTU sector organiser.

"It is extremely disappointing that Aer Lingus has decided to take unilateral action and we will continue to insist that the current pay arrangements are continued beyond June 21st and for the duration of the crisis."

Meanwhile Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary told Channel 4 news  that aviation "needs to return to normality as soon as possible". 

He predicted lower fares in the industry to help restore air traffic. "We are selling lower prices than ever before from 1 July. We can subsidise cheaper fares for probably 12 to 18 months but we are making some very painful cost-cutting decisions.

"We are talking about losing 3,000 pilots and cabin crew. We expect to only carry 80 million instead of 150 million passengers this year."

Mr Ryanair said he hoped lower air fares would get the industry back moving again. "That worked after 9/11, people were back flying within a month or two. But the Covid-19 groundings have been much more serious and much more prolonged."