Grounded — Galway Airport sit-in enters third night as talks continue

Airport staff Sheila Empey, Ronan McGoldrick, James Woods and Michael Duggan pictured at the terminal in Galway Airport this week as the sit-in continued. Photo: Hany Marzouk

Airport staff Sheila Empey, Ronan McGoldrick, James Woods and Michael Duggan pictured at the terminal in Galway Airport this week as the sit-in continued. Photo: Hany Marzouk

A sit-in held by Galway Airport staff seeking confirmation that redundancies will be paid entered into its third night last evening following news that crunch talks failed to yield a decision on the future of the facility.

A meeting between the airport management and the Bank of Ireland took place on Tuesday following the move by the bank last week to transfer €1.1 million from the company’s current account and offset it against its loans. Eight of the remaining 14 staff are due to finish work on February 19 next, however, following the bank’s actions there have been concerns that the company will now not be able to guarantee that redundancies will be paid. It is understood that of the €1.6 million the company had in its account, €1.1 million was transferred by the bank, leaving €500,000 to cover redundancy payments as well as ongoing operations.

The staff began their sit-in on Monday evening calling for assurances that the redundancies will in fact be paid from remaining funds, and further highlighted that part of the Government’s operational subvention of €2.3 million awarded to Galway Airport last year was for the purpose of paying redundancies. It is understood that the transfer of the €1.1 million from the company’s account as well as the possibility of a rescue package were just some of the issues discussed at a meeting between airport management and bank officials in Dublin on Tuesday morning. Airport board of management then held their own meeting yesterday morning with no being announcement made on the possibility of liquidation or redundancy payments at time this paper went to press.

As the sit-in entered into its third night duty manager Michael Maloney, speaking from the Carnmore facility yesterday evening, told the Advertiser that discussions were “on-going” and that staff have effectively been left in “limbo”. “We’re in the same spot as we were yesterday [Tuesday]. Until there is news the sit-in will continue. Our objective continues to be getting confirmation that there will be redundancies paid on the 19th. It is going to be a bit of a wait but hopefully there will be a positive outcome, that a compromise can be reached with the bank, a liquidator will not have to be appointed, and the airport can come through this difficult patch.”

These hopes for the future of the airport were echoed by Galway Chamber of Commerce CEO Michael Coyle who confirmed that although management met with Bank of Ireland their talks were still on-going. He added that during the talks the objectives of the company were discussed in an attempt to “secure its future”, that both groups went away to re-group, and further meetings will be taking place in the coming days.

Regarding the sit-in, Mr Coyle acknowledged that of course “staff are concerned” and that “it is inevitable that as the situation unfolds it would give rise to concerns”. He vowed that the chamber continues to believe that the aiport has played and will continue to play, a vital role in the economy and the development of the region, and that “all avenues” have been exhausted to ensure the airport’s future. “Inevitably in these situations decisions do not come quickly - there are on-going meetings, advice being given and taken in trying to make decisions at a critical juncture in the life of the airport. The people of Galway would not thank us if we did not exhaust every avenue in trying to keep this vital infrastrature.”

Mr Coyle also commended the staff involved in the sit-in

for responding “magnificently” to an emergency flight which came into Galway Airport on Tuesday evening. It has been confirmed that staff received a medivac call to accommodate an organ transplant flight. The flight, with two surgeons and four nurses on board, arrived from Newcastle, UK, at around 10pm making their way straight to a local hospital to collect organs, believed to be for a lung transplant, before flying out again yesterday at 7am.

Commenting on the incident, sit-in member Mr Maloney said: “What happened last night shows the type of service this airport provides, the type of service that is going unnoticed.”


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