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Irish ground handlers seek state support to handle medical equipment

IRELAND's import and export cargo, including needed medical equipment, could be put at risk unless the government provides 'urgent and significant support' for the country's groundlers

27 March 2020 - 05:48

IRELAND's import and export cargo, including needed medical equipment, could be put at risk unless the government provides 'urgent and significant support' for the country's groundlers.

Income continuance and designating the work as an essential service during the coronavirus pandemic are two of the key requests made by the ground handling firms to Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and Transport Minister Shane Ross.



The leading ground handling firms in Ireland - Worldwide Flight Services (WFS), Swissport, Menzies and Aer Lingus owner IAG - employ 1,400 people at Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports. Between them, they handle about 140,000 tonnes a year in cargo, reported Dublin's Irish Independent.



Some 40 per cent of the cargo in and out of the gateways is handled by IAG, 30 per cent by WFS and 30 per cent by Swissport. Normally, that cargo includes pharmaceuticals, valuable electronic equipment and food. For WFS, typically 40 per cent of the cargo would comprise pharmaceuticals.



WFS general manager Simon Coomber said the mix had now dramatically changed, with pharmaceuticals currently accounting for 80 per cent of the cargo the firm is handling.



WFS chairman Brendan Byrne said the ground handling companies also needed a deferment of corporation tax payments, a holiday from employer PRSI, and a suspension of business rates and rents in order to protect jobs and ease liquidity issues. They also want the government to provide a guarantee to banks and other financial institutions so they will continue financing the aviation sector.



'We're not doing this from purely a WFS perspective,' said Mr Byrne.



'We're doing this from an Ireland perspective. We are a critical part of this, but the problem is that nobody knows how important we are.'



With airlines facing their own liquidity issues, the ground handling firms are suffering from late payments, which are exacerbating their own financial difficulties.



The firms have also told ministers that income support needs to cover a significant part of the wages of staff who would have to be temporarily laid off.



Aside from pharmaceutical firms, air cargo users in Ireland include companies such as Apple, EMC, Danone and Intel.


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