by PAULO SILVESTRE
More than 300 people are to lose their jobs after baggage handling company Groundforce announced it was closing its operation at Faro airport from January 1, 2011.
Managing director Fernando Melo told Portuguese radio station Antena 1: “This is very painful for us because it will mean the dismissal of 336 people. We have no alternative because the company has an income of €5 million a year and €13 million of costs at the Algarve airport.”
He added: “We have had days when there were only three flights that we dealt with but a staff of 336 workers. There is no demand for so many workers when are so few flights.
A Groundforce spokesman told the Algarve Resident on November 11: “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 Euros in 2009. The forecast for 2010 is a loss of €20 million.”
Cutting the Faro operation will cut the 2010 losses by around €8 million, he said.
He added that the decision was taken as an “indispensable condition” to make the business viable and protect the remaining 2,000 employees at Lisbon, Porto and Madeira airports.
The spokesman said the company had already informed all the relevant authorities, the workers’ representative organisations and its customers at Faro airport.
“Conscious about the consequences of this decision on the workers,” he said, “Groundforce is mobilising its services to give all the help it can to employees, including the hiring of an outplacement company to provide guidance.”
Employees were informed of the decision by email and will now meet to decide what action to take in protest against this decision.
The company, which is owned by Portuguese national carrier TAP, will continue to service airlines and passengers at Faro until January 1, mainly by bringing in staff from other bases. The baggage handling service will then need to be taken on by another company.
Two other ground handling companies operate at Faro – Portway and Servisair.
The Algarve Resident contacted airport operator ANA but no one was available for comment.