Government ‘must explain Shannon Airport job cuts’

Shannon Airport is to incur its first round of job losses since securing its independence almost 18 months ago.

The Shannon Group yesterday confirmed it is exploring the prospect of a voluntary redundancy scheme to make its various business units, including Shannon Airport, more competitive.

In a statement, the group said: “The necessity to address the cost base of the Shannon Group business units has been known for some time. In recent times, it has been referenced in the Shannon task force report and subsequent annual reports.

“We are exploring various options to address this, including a voluntary severance scheme. This will make for a more sustainable business model going forward.”

It is understood that the group is seeking around 40 redundancies, although a spokesman would not be drawn on any particular number. A meeting is planned between airport management and unions next week on the planned job cuts.

Current job levels of around 280 at Shannon Airport are for traffic levels for around 4m passengers per annum and last year, Shannon recorded passenger numbers of 1.7m. The airport’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation in 2014 topped €4.6m as passenger numbers increased by 17% on the back of new Ryanair services.

However, yesterday’s announcement runs counter to a statement made by Shannon Group chairwoman Rose Hynes to an Oireachtas Transport Committee in 2013 when she said that “there is no intention to reduce the number of jobs: Rather, the intention is to grow the pie and increase passenger numbers”.

Fianna Fáil transport spokesman Timmy Dooley said yesterday that he is “deeply disappointed” by the loss of jobs at the airport.

“Two years ago, the Government announced to much fanfare the separation of Shannon and the promise of a very significant increase in jobs at Shannon,” said Mr Dooley.

The Clare TD said that the Government “over-promised the benefits of separation and the politicians who talked up separation must now explain what has happened in the intervening time”.

“Clear promises and commitments on jobs were made and now they lie in tatters,” he said. “It’s clear now that we were sold a pup by this Government. Passenger numbers are up, growth is up and still there is a plan to target the workforce for redundancies.”

Mr Dooley said that whether the job losses are voluntary or involuntary is irrelevant, as they represent a loss of income to the region and will negatively affect the families of workers concerned.

He said that the creation of the Shannon Group — that involved the abolition of Shannon Development — “is now being seen as a deeply negative for the region with the loss of Shannon Development and the revenues from Shannon Development’s properties are not enough to sustain the jobs levels at the airport”.

Clare TD Michael McNamara said yesterday that he was surprised by the Shannon Group statement, “given the assurances that have been given in relation to the cost base at Shannon and job numbers there”.

Mr McNamara, who recently lost the Labour whip over the sale of Aer Lingus and its impact on Shannon, said he is “very concerned” at the planned job losses.

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