Staff up in arms as soldiers ready to be deployed in Dublin by ‘end of week’
A large majority of people believe the Army should be drafted in to help at Dublin Airport, according to a Sunday Independent/Ireland Thinks opinion poll, as cancelled flights, missing baggage and long delays caused further significant disruption at the airport this weekend.
Yesterday, Dublin Airport Authority CEO Dalton Philips told the Sunday Independent that army personnel were “ready for deployment if needed, by the end of this week” — a development which is supported by a significant 64pc of respondents to the poll.
However, security staff at the airport are warning that they will refuse to work alongside — or even help train — soldiers drafted in to work at the airport.
The Government’s crisis plan to deploy the Defence Forces could further stoke an already delicate industrial-relations situation.
In one email to trade union officials, a senior security officer claimed he was writing on behalf of colleagues: “Under no circumstances will I or any of my colleagues allow Defence Forces staff to shadow us while we undertake our roles, as part of any training process for them — and we would expect to have the full backing of our union representatives in advance of this situation arising.”
Reports of major disruption at the airport are forcing large numbers to reassess travel and holiday plans.
According to the poll, more than a third (31pc) are considering changing plans as a result of events at the airport — a 12 point increase in a month.
There is also widespread anger at Irish hotels, with 93pc of people saying it is
fair to criticise hoteliers for “price
The disruption of travel and holiday plans as a result of staff shortages and a spike in Covid among workers at the airport is adding to a wider sense of frustration and anxiety over the cost of living.
The poll also finds a significant 68pc believe the inflation crisis should be the Government’s top priority. That is up eight points in a month.
As pressure mounts on the Government to act, the Sunday Independent understands that the Cabinet intends to bring forward by a number of weeks a heralded cost-of-living budget to the last week in September — with a double social welfare payment on the cards.
In today’s poll, only a fifth (21pc) say the budget should proceed as planned in October, but 39pc want an emergency budget within weeks — while 38pc were of the view that it should take place in September.
The growing frustration is reflected in another boost in support for Sinn Féin (36pc) to a record high level in these polls, along with a growing preference for a Sinn Féin-led government (45pc) over the current administration (40pc).
At Dublin Airport yesterday there were scenes of spiralling queues at airline check-in desks, as holidaymakers faced a continuing summer of flight cancellations, lost baggage and long wait times.
The disruption comes as airports across Europe struggle to cope with staffing shortages and strike actions.
This weekend, hundreds of irate passengers bombarded Aer Lingus with stories of cancelled flights and baggage that, weeks after landing, still failed to materialise.
In a statement, Aer Lingus apologised and said “teams” at the airline are working to re-accommodate them on the next available flights.
Aer Lingus has now cancelled more than 60 flights in the past week, though it says in total just over 1pc of flights were impacted by cancellations in June.
The airline said the cancellations are due to the fact they are dealing with “a significant spike in Covid cases”.However, one staff member at Aer Lingus, who was at Dublin Airport yesterday afternoon and wishes to remain anonymous, disputed the reasoning.
Asked why Ryanair flights have not been impacted by Covid-related staff shortages, he said: “Because it’s not true. Aer Lingus don’t have enough staff and are using Covid as an excuse.”
In an interview in yesterday’s Financial Times, Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said he would not be critical of rival airlines. “Covid has been unbelievably difficult to manage,” he said.
However, he also warned that air fares will rise for the next five years, as flying had become “too cheap” to make profits, with industry costs spiralling.
The DAA has confirmed that Defence Forces personnel have already begun training as a contingency measure for a short defined period between July 6 and August 15. However, it said it expected at this point the deployment of the Army may not be necessary.
DAA boss Dalton Philips also said the DAA was committed to reimbursing all training costs to the Department of Defence.