GERMAN aviation firm Lufthansa Technik's decision to serve redundancy notice on more than 400 Irish staff less than a week before Christmas has been branded as "appalling".
As long-standing staff at the Dublin plant spoke of their fears for future employment prospects, union boss Arthur Hall blasted the move, saying: "This is the worst news these 410 employees and their families could receive at Christmas time."
"They would not dare treat their German employees in this way," said Mr Hall, general secretary of the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU), describing it as "appalling".
Lufthansa Technik Airmotive Ireland, based in Rathcoole in Co Dublin, is an overhaul centre for jet engines ultimately owned by German airline Lufthansa.
The plant, originally operated by Aer Lingus, has employed people in the area since 1980.
Lufthansa Technik employees have known for months that the plant was in trouble but had been left in the dark about its final plans.
A number of potential buyers had been interested in the factory, but could not agree a deal.
Some 410 factory workers officially learnt of their redundancies through a message posted on an internal company website yesterday morning, their last day of work before breaking up for Christmas.
Until the notice was posted online, staff had no clarity on when exactly they would be made redundant or what their severance packages would be.
Now the timeframe for closure is clear, Lufthansa want to close the factory within two months.
Its spokesman said that following an "extensive review" the company was found to be not commercially viable, due to declining revenues and shrinking international market opportunities.
The TEEU estimates that 60pc of its employees are aged over 50. "These are highly skilled craft workers but because those skills are specialised it is extremely unlikely that they will find employment again in Ireland," said Mr Hall.
A number of staff spoke to the Irish Independent after they were told the news.
Tom Carthy, who has worked at the factory for 22 years, said: "How can you feel, you know? It's Christmas week, and after all the service we've put in. But what can you do about it?"
He said that finding a job would be tough, even for more experienced employees.
"There's no prospect of other jobs because of the industry we're in. Are you looking for an aircraft mechanic? Nobody is, unless you emigrate."
A worker of more than 30 years' experience, Sonny Trayor, said he planned to retire in five weeks, but said he felt sorry for younger employees.
"A lot of them have never done anything else. They came straight here as apprentices. Where are they going to get a job like this? It's the only thing they know."
Mr Hall said the company's timescale for closure reneges on earlier proposals for a six-month wind-down period.
Employees also learned they were facing a reduced redundancy package.
They had originally been offered a minimum of six weeks' pay per year of service, but this was rejected after talks with three separate unions broke down on December 6.
The Labour Court yesterday endorsed Lufthansa's new, smaller offer of statutory redundancy plus four weeks' pay per year of service, capped at a maximum value of two years' salary.
Mr Hall said the two-year cap would have "major adverse implications" for workers at the plant, leaving many out of pocket. "Many of them have been employed for over 17 years," he said.
Lufthansa Technik also operates two other facilities in Ireland, based in Shannon, where it employs around 700 people.
The company said these subsidiaries, engine overhaul company Shannon Aerospace and engine parts specialist Lufthansa Technik Turbine Shannon, would not be affected by the Rathcoole closure.