By PAULO SILVESTRE [email protected]
More than 300 people have lost their jobs after baggage handling company Groundforce announced it was closing its operation at Faro airport from January 1, 2011.
A Groundforce spokesman told the Algarve Resident: “In 2007, the company reported losses of €29.2 million, which rose to €38.2 million in 2008. Measures taken subsequently saw losses cut to €28.2 million in 2009. The forecast for 2010 is a loss of €20 million.”
Closing the Faro operation will cut the 2010 losses by around €8 million, he said, and it was an “indispensable condition” to make the TAP-owned business viable and protect the remaining 2,000 employees at Lisbon, Porto and Madeira airports.”
He added that 89 per cent of the losses of Groundforce at Faro Airport are related to wages and after exhausting all the action plans to reduce the costs and increase revenues, the situation was unsustainable.
The president of Algarve Tourism Board Nuno Aires told the Algarve Resident: “The Algarve Tourism Board deeply regrets the dismissal of the Groundforce employees. We have been assured that this decision will not affect airport ground operations.”
Syndicate representatives of the workers were due to meet with the Prime Minister yesterday (Thursday) to discuss the situation and the future of the people affected.
President of the Union of Airport Handling Technicians (STHA), André Teives, said: “The Government decision, which meant 336 employees were dismissed by email, has to be explained.”
Representatives were also due to meet with TAP yesterday to negotiate their dismissal conditions.
According to António Goulart from the Union of Syndicates in the Algarve, “the collective dismissal in Groundforce would cost the Government at least €3 million in unemployment subsidies for workers. This is a dismissal that will have an enormous impact on the region’s economy.”
Social Democratic (PSD) Algarve MP Mendes Bota said: “This abrupt dismissal was a disloyal stab in the back for the 336 employees of the operational base of Groundforce in Faro.
“This company is 100 per cent owned by public funds through TAP Air Portugal and is subordinate to the Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Communications, so for this to happen, it had to be endorsed by the government.”
A spokesman from PSD Algarve told the Algarve Resident: “We are fully behind the dismissed employees of Groundforce and are concerned about the impact that this closure will have on the region’s economy.”
He also stressed that measures need to be taken to assure the future of ground handling services at Faro airport, since they represent the first image of a region such as the Algarve which has in tourism one of its main sources of revenue.
Faro Mayor Macário Correia told the Algarve Resident: “This situation is going to aggravate the economic situation in the region. Unemployment in the region is the highest in the country. The state budget for the Faro district is falling year on year and the EU funds for the Algarve suffered a drastic reduction. Now the government suddenly decides to dismiss more than 300 workers at the Faro airport.
“These simultaneous events are a serious obstacle for the whole future of the region.”
Portway handling company, owned by ANA (Aeroportos de Portugal), told Lusa news agency that all baggage handling works are covered to minimise problems caused by this situation.
“Right now, our focus is to help minimise potential operational disruption affecting the airlines, passengers, cargo and mail due to the suspension of the activity of Groundforce,” said a spokesman from Portway.
The Algarve Resident tried several times this week to speak with ANA, the company that runs Faro airport, but no-one was available for comment.