Swissport USA, a company that refuels airplanes at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, laid off 114 employees there in June, citing a dearth of flights needing its service due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The company is under congressional scrutiny, though, because it received federal funding tied to protecting jobs until Sept. 30.
Swissport USA is one of several aviation subcontractors being investigated by members of Congress for taking federal payroll subsidies and then laying off workers anyway. The federal funds, part of the CARES Act, are being doled out to airlines and aviation businesses under the condition that they not make mass layoffs until October.
Swissport Fueling Inc., part of Swissport USA, failed to provide 60-day notice to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) as required under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act "because this impact to the business was unforeseeable," the company wrote in its letter to the state.
Last week, U.S. Reps. James Clyburn, D-S.C., Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said at least 12 airline contractors accepted a combined total of more than $700 million in aid after laying off nearly 9,300 workers.
Swissport was among the largest recipients at more than $170 million. In the weeks leading up to the agreement on July 10, Swissport laid off 2,840 workers in Florida, Michigan, New York, Virginia and Washington, according to a letter sent by the lawmakers to Swissport's CEO Frank Mena.
The company did not respond to requests for comment Monday, but it told Reuters in a statement last week that it "believes it is currently fully compliant with the terms" of its support. "We look forward to working cooperatively with the relevant committees," Swissport said in that statement.
Swissport began permanently cutting the 116 MSP jobs starting June 3 with the expectation that they would be complete by the end of June, according to a letter dated June 17 sent to DEED by Pa Lee, human resources manager for Swissport.
The most recent employment data on Swissport's website lists 160 employees at MSP.
The affected workers are represented by Teamsters Local 120. Grant Bendix, business agent for Local 120, said the union contract includes recall rights, meaning the layoffs will only become permanent if the number of flights "doesn't ever go back up."
"We have already seen a slight uptick where some of our members have been recalled and are hopeful that trend will continue," Bendix said.
Reuters contributed to this report.