Aer Lingus is to temporarily lay-off its 129 ground and cabin crew staff at Shannon Airport for three months, from Monday next, 8 March, until June. 

The aviation sector has been particularly badly hit by the Covid health crisis, and there has been no Aer Lingus flights from Shannon since last April. 

Staff had been on the temporary wage subsidy scheme and more recently on the employment wage subsidy. Now workers will be put on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment for the three-month duration of the lay-offs.

In a statement today, Aer Lingus said full year results which were issued last Friday showed the airline recorded an operating of loss of €361 million in 2020.

"This represents the largest ever loss in the airline's history and demonstrates the profound impact of Covid-19." 

Aer Lingus said it has completed a review of the Shannon operation, and on the basis that no flights have operated to or from Shannon since 5 April, 2020, the airline concluded that it was not sustainable to continue to roster staff to the current levels when there was no work available. 

The company said the temporary unpaid lay-off from 8 March may "be subject to further extension or change based on work requirements in Shannon".

SIPTU's Aviation Sectoral head Neil McGowan, who represents ground and ramp staff at Shannon, said it was devastating news for the staff. 

He said the move underpins the necessity for further Government supports for the aviation sector, as he said it is clear that it will be the last sector to recover from this crisis.

Clare Fianna Fáil TD and aviation spokesperson Cathal Crowe said it was a real blow for the workers and for the region. 

"I've have engaged with the airline and colleagues in government to see if further supports can be put in place that the Shannon based workers aren't left on the breadline," he said.

Senator Timmy Dooley tweeted that the temporary lay-offs were another body blow to the Mid West aviation and tourism sectors, and that further Government action is required.

Fórsa said it had previously warned that thousands of jobs dependent on aviation could be lost permanently unless the Government acted to support the sector though a second summer of inactivity.

It said today's developments illustrate that its warnings on the future of aviation need to be taken seriously and acted upon.