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TAP – Lisbon Hub Restructure – Could Lead to Disaster

On the 4th of September, officials from seven unions representing TAP workers met with Board of Directors of TAP and representatives of the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the consultants chosen by the carrier to coordinate the restructuring plan required by the European Commission as part of the conditions of the state loan to the airline.    The union group includes the Union of Economists (SE), Union of Engineers (SERS), Union of Accountants (SICONT), Union of Metallurgical and Related Industries (SIMA), National Union of Civil Aviation Workers (SINTAC), Union of Cadres da Commercial Aviation (SQAC) and the Union of Airport Handling Technicians (STHA).

After the meeting the unions argued that any restructuring that calls into question the Lisbon hub will ‘dictate the end’ of the airline. In a joint statement they said ‘Any Restructuring Plan’ that puts the hub at risk (‘hub’ medium haul – long haul – medium haul), will bring about the end of the TAP group, with everything that is directly and indirectly attributable to it.  This includes being the largest national exporter (non-tradable goods), one of Portugal’s biggest employers, one of the largest contributors net of taxes (resulting not only from the labour factor (IRS / TSU) but also from its activity (VAT / IRC), as well as being one of the main drivers of tourism.’

The unions also state that the creation of the TAP ‘Stopover programme,’ which allows a free stop of up to three days in Portugal through the’ hub ‘(a designation given to airports that are the main commercial centres of flight operations)

The unions also informed the management and consultants that, although TAP has more than doubled its route network and fleet size since 2000, the employment of workers has remained relatively static.

On the 17th of July, the European Union Council of Ministers approved the granting of a loan of up to €1,200 billion euros to TAP, in accordance with a decision by the European Commission. Following the approval of this state aid to TAP, the airline group consulted the market to select an entity that provides consultancy services, in order to assist in the preparation of a restructuring plan, to be presented to the European Commission. Their decision to hire Boston Consulting Group was announced by the chairman of the Board of Directors of the TAP group, Miguel Frasquilho, on the 11th of August.

In addition to the remunerated loan in favour of the TAP Group of €946 million, to which may be added a further €254 million, without the State being bound to its availability, negotiations aimed at the acquisition, by the Portuguese State, of social stakes, economic rights and a part of the ancillary payments of the current shareholder of TAP SGPS, Atlantic Gateway, SGPS Lda.

Thus, the Portuguese State now holds a total social stake of 72.5% of the airline.

take of 72.5% and the corresponding economic rights in TAP SGPS, currently valued at €55 billion euros.

Samantha Gannon

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