HSE may employ airport staff as contract tracers

HSE may employ airport staff as contract tracers

Senator Timmy Dooley said that even before the pandemic Shannon Airport was already on the "backfoot" as the vast bulk of aviation went through Dublin. Picture: Eamon Ward

The HSE is looking into employing laid-off Shannon Airport staff as Covid contact tracers.

Airport management has met with the HSE to explore the possibility of employing staff, who have been temporarily let go or in part-time work, in contact tracing.

It comes as Ryanair has threatened to close its Cork and Shannon bases from October 26 for the winter season if the Government does not implement the EU traffic light system to allow for a return of international air travel.

The low-cost airline called on the Government to fully adopt the new EU travel list policy from October 13, which would allow for unrestricted air travel to and from those regions of Europe which are classified by the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) as green or amber.

The Government has already said it broadly supports the EU Commission proposal on the so-called traffic light system for international travel.

Senator Timmy Dooley said the unexpected fallout from Covid-19 has been "devastating" to the airport and the wider region.

He said a short-term solution is now required to address the significant fallout of the pandemic for employees of Shannon Airport. 

"Many of them are temporarily laid-off or are back at work part-time. They are finding it impossible to meet their financial commitments, notwithstanding the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, and are struggling to survive.

"Contact tracing work would be a small relief to some but we must think imaginatively as to how we can provide more assistance."

Raising the issue in the Seanad, Mr Dooley said airport workers had a standard of living built up around expected income and they are now under pressure with mortgage repayments, education fees, car loans, and all the other normal expenditure.

"I am not saying that they work in a protected sector, but the workers would never have experienced anything like this before. There are people who have always known that they work in a precarious environment, but this is not the case with the employees of Shannon Airport. It has been a bolt out of the blue for those working for the airlines and in the airport," the Fianna Fáil senator said.

"We must look at how we can assist these workers immediately, in recognition of the fact that aviation activity is not going to resume soon."

Mr Dooley added that even before the pandemic Shannon Airport was already on the "backfoot" as the vast bulk of aviation went through Dublin.

"We must ensure during the ramp-up period that airlines do not go for the easy touch and operate all of the services out of the main airport of Dublin because such a move would kill regional development and give us no chance in the west, mid-west or south to recover in that regard."

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