10/03/2020

Staff Face Temporary Lay-Off In Wake Of Flybe Collapse

Baggage handlers and check-in staff at Belfast City Airport have been left facing immediate temporary lay-offs in the wake of Flybe's collapse, a trade union has warned.

A 14 day unpaid "stand down period" was offered by Swissport just one day after the airline giant collapsed into administration, Unite has revealed.

The union branded the move as an effectual "temporary lay off". It is engaging with lawyers regarding the legality of the 14-day unpaid period and is demanding decisive action from Stormont to protect local jobs.

Flybe was responsible for 80% of the business at the site.

Regional Officer for the workers, George Brash said: "This is a totally unacceptable response by Swissport.

"This is not a company that needs to threaten the income of their employees in the aftermath of the Flybe collapse; indeed, with the prospect that many, if not all, former Flybe routes could be taken on by other airlines this is an unnecessary and unacceptable response rooted in a short-term desire simply to maximise profits."

Scottish airline Loganair and former Flybe partner Eastern Airways have so far stepped in to replace three of the routes formerly operated from the airport.

Swissport employes 150 staff at the site.
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Turning to the need for decisive action by Stormont Executive Ministers, Mr Brash added: "Unfortunately this move highlights Unite's fears that the collapse of Flybe could result in a wider crisis at Belfast City Airport and our economy unless decisive action was taken by the Stormont Executive. Their failure to take over and run this airline in the public interest – securing flights, regional connectivity and jobs at Belfast City Airport – has allowed the tailwinds of Flybe's collapse to spiral. There are many other airlines in the world which are not run by billionaires – why not here in Northern Ireland?

"Sadly this threat by Swissport bosses is only the first wave, more workers' jobs will be in danger over coming days should this crisis be allowed to extend. Stormont Ministers must intervene to safeguard these vital flights, the future of the city airport and workers' livelihoods," Mr Brash concluded.

Political representatives have called on the firm to halt temporary lay-offs while the transition of business takes place at the site.

Sinn Fein MLA Jemma Dolan said: "The temporary stand down of Flybe workers will increase uncertainty for workers and their families over the next two weeks.

"Swissport is an international company which reportedly increased its revenue last year, therefore there is no excuse for this action which places excessive strain on hard pressed workers.

"It is important that Swissport now shows responsibility and consults with its workers and trade unions with the intention of ensuring that workers do not fall into financial difficulties."



(JG/CM)

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