Clare TD Joe Carey has described the move by Aer Lingus to lay off all 129 inflight service and ground operations staff at Shannon Airport until the summer as a “cruel blow to workers”.

The Shannon-based Aer Lingus workers’ worst fears were confirmed as the airline announced the cuts yesterday. As a result, the airline employees will not receive any wages in the interim period after enduring months of uncertainty about their futures.

It comes after the carrier recorded a massive operating loss of €361 million for last year as the pandemic decimated its operations.

Deputy Carey said: “I understand these are unprecedented times for Aer Lingus and the entire airline industry. However, this news will come as a very cruel blow for its 129 employees at Shannon who now face a difficult few months ahead.

“The Government has provided extensive supports to Aer Lingus and the airline sector through the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme which was subsequently replaced by the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme. It is really disappointing the company felt the need to temporarily lay off all of its loyal Shannon employees. The whole reason these employment support schemes were established was to protect employment and to keep the link between employees and their employers.”

The local Fine Gael TD said he is engaging with the airline and colleagues in Government to see if further supports can be found to assist the Shannon-based workers.

Deputy Carey added: “While the rollout of the vaccination programme is underway, everything that can be done must be done in order to help the aviation sector and employees in the industry here in the Mid-West. The aviation industry must be safeguarded in these difficult times. I welcome the provision of a state backed €150m loan for Aer Lingus and I continue to press the case for a further substantial cash injection for the company on the basis that key strategic routes are protected and that the company retains a base in Shannon.

“The entire region is heavily dependent on aviation as a driver of economic activity. It’s vital that the Government recognises this and that every effort is made to protect the 140,000 jobs in the sector and the hugely important business and tourism connectivity for the Mid-West and western regions.”