Hundreds of workers laid off as Covid-19 crisis deepens

A Craigavon firm at the centre of a row over its social distancing measures has laid off hundreds of temporary workers.

Friday, 27th March 2020, 8:06 pm
Updated Saturday, 28th March 2020, 7:31 pm
Thompson Aero Seating

A number of employees at Thompson Aero Seating (TAS) based at Seagoe near Portadown had voiced concern in recent days regarding “cramped” working conditions they claimed were putting them at a higher risk of contracting Covid-19.

One told the Portadown Times, “We have expressed concern and feel uncomfortable in the current working climate.

“Our workers are being denied simple safety measures. Are we lesser value people or why is this being allowed?” they said.

At the time, a company spokesperson said: “Thompson Aero Seating has implemented a number of social distancing practices within its operations where reasonably and practically possible. These include increasing spacing between operators and redesigning our facility layout.”

Yesterday around 350 employees were told that their services were no longer required.

The letter sent to one of the temporary workers states that their contract, which was due for renewal at the end of this month was now terminated, and that they would be paid one week’s wages in lieu of notice.

“Your P45 and monies due will be forwarded to you through bank transfer in April pay date.”

The letter reminds the employee of their right to appeal the decision, and adds: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your commitment and work with the company over the course of your contract term and I would like to wish you all the best for the future.”

Speaking to the News Letter as he left the workplace for the last time, one worker said he feels the company should have paid the temporary staff off a few weeks ago rather than have them in the factory during the Covid-19 crisis.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said.

“They worked up through the pandemic and now this. Now I’m going to have to find a job in the middle of a pandemic,” he added.

In another letter issued to staff members, the management at TAS said: “We are doing everything within our power to keep TAS operating as effectively as possible and minimise the impact COVID-19 has on our business.”

It added: “These are extremely difficult times for our airline customers, and they are taking difficult but understandable decisions to delay, reduce and reschedule their orders and projects.

“It is therefore with deep regret that, as a direct result of the rescheduling of key projects, we have had to review our production plans and will be releasing the majority of our remaining agency, temp and contractor resources with immediate effect”.

Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd said the company should have accessed the government’s furlough scheme set up to protect jobs during the current crisis, and added: “I call on management at Thompson’s, even at this eleventh hour, to release these workers under the Furlough scheme rather than laying them off.”

Management at TAS have not yet responded to a request for comment.