Aer Lingus has ruled out any prospect of reversing its decision to close its Shannon cabin crew base - and warned of the potential for further cost-cutting measures.
In a downbeat video message to staff, the airline's Chief People Officer Brian Bowden cited Tuesday's announcement of the permanent closure of the Shannon cabin crew base, the temporary closure and layoff of staff at the Cork base, a review of ground handling requirement in both Cork and Shannon, and the continuation of reduced hours and associated pay reductions, adding: "...with the potential for more".
Mr Bowden acknowledged that Tuesday's announcement had "understandably" generated a lot of reaction, including from the Government and other interested parties.
He noted that much had been said about the supports offered to the aviation sector, the importance of the sector to Ireland, and the commitment to reopen international travel.
"There have even been some suggestions that the decision to close the Shannon cabin crew base could potentially be reversed," he stated.
"Regrettably such a reversal will not be possible."
He said the Shannon cabin crew base had been inefficient and "out of line with market" for many years - largely due to its geographic location - and that the scale of the airline's operations had not been enough to deliver the required efficiency and productivity.
"In our new reality an inefficient cabin crew base cannot deliver what is required to help rebuild the financial health of the business," he said.
Mr Bowden said the decisions were not taken lightly, and outlined the financial plight of Aer Lingus.
He noted the airline had had to take on "considerable" debt on commercial terms, which will have to be repaid with interest.
"This may sound blunt but we need to be clear and frank. Yes, we have accepted all supports offered to us and they are welcome - but with Aer Lingus losing on average over €1 million per day for well over a year, the €150 million loan Aer Lingus secured from ISIF (the Irish Strategic Investment Fund) doesn't alleviate our problems."
Mr Bowden acknowledged that the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme had certainly helped to retain jobs, and reduce the number of redundancies and layoffs required, but went on: " ...with the summer mostly lost it is now clear we have too many resources for even optimistic scenarios of the year ahead."
Mr Bowden warned that structural changes would be necessary across the business, but would focus primarily on areas with "off-market pay, terms, conditions, work practices".
"As we said before, we will emerge smaller from the pandemic and unfortunately there will be a requirement for redundancies."
Mr Bowden said the cumulative impact of the Covid-19 crisis over the past 15 months meant immediate action on implementing structural changes was absolutely required in order to survive, rebuild financial health, to be cost-efficient and to boost productivity.
A spokesperson for Aer Lingus said in relation to redundancies, Mr Bowden was restating what had been announced on Tuesday.
She said the number of redundancies in scope had yet to be determined, but could be reduced depending on whether better productivity could be secured.
Talks with unions are ongoing.
The Head of Fórsa's Aviation Division, Ashley Connolly, who represents cabin crew, said this evening that Mr Bowden's comments were "open to interpretation" and that they had not yet seen the detail of what Aer Lingus would be requiring from staff.
SIPTU Aviation official Neil McGowan also voiced concerns about the implications of the restructuring for staff.
He said that at last Tuesday's meeting management had said that the 60% pay/hours arrangement in Dublin would continue for the foreseeable future, but could not rule out further layoffs or redundancies.
He said there was a real worry about the potential implications of a review of Ground Operations in Cork and Shannon.