Airport staff working for the Daa will see their pay cut to 60% with a three-day week from 26 September if they fail to accept a restructuring programme when they ballot on the proposals next week, according to Chief Executive Dalton Philips.
The restructuring, which could see the operator of Dublin and Cork Airports shed between 700 and 900 jobs, has been triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sources noted that the proposals had been recommended for acceptance in 90% of sections affected ahead of the ballot.
In a video address to the workforce today, Mr Philips said traffic at Dublin Airport is still 85% down on last year, while traffic through Cork is faring even worse, with a drop in traffic of 90%.
In further evidence of the collapse of aviation, load factors have also plummeted to less than 40% in Dublin and around 30% in Cork.
In sections that accepted the proposed reforms – which would see them operating in new ways with fewer staff – pay would be kept at 80% of pre-Covid rates "minimum" until January, Mr Philips said.
However, he went on to warn that in areas where the Daa was not able to adopt new ways of working, they would have too many people and not enough work.
"In those areas, unfortunately, we are going to have to bring wages down to 60% as a consequence of too many people and not enough work," he said. "So we will have to go to a three-day week because traffic just doesn't support anything more than a three day week."
Mr Philips said that it was clearly the desire of the Daa to restore pay to 100% as soon as possible.
The said the key thing is that people should have a full understanding of the pros and cons of the difficult choices they had to make, but he added that whatever the result of the ballot, the Daa would live with the consequences and move on.
He said airport operators are raising concerns about long-haul traffic "which really is drying up" - noting that Qantas is talking about halting international traffic until after next Easter, and that there is also uncertainty about when the United States would reopen.
He said one aviation observer had described Ireland as "the North Korea of Europe" due to quarantining and other restrictions, which had made the country one of the most difficult to get in and out of at present.
The Daa has been pushing hard for pre-departure Covid-19 testing, Mr Philips said, so that when people arrive in Ireland they can show the test result at immigration and be let through without quarantining.