Cross sector aviation alliance, including Unite the union, to hold UK day of action to demand COVID-19 support

Unite, the UK’s leading aviation union, is fully supporting a unique cross-sector alliance of all key participants in the industry, who will come together for a day of action tomorrow (Wednesday 23 June) to demand that the government takes immediate action to ensure that travel survives the COVID-19 pandemic.

Furlough extended

Unite’s key call is for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to be extended for the aviation sector beyond the current cut-off date of September, while government restrictions are preventing travel, in order to protect jobs, routes and airports and to ensure that the UK still has a viable industry when travel can safely return to something approaching normality.

As part of the day of action, Unite members who are aviation workers and other key stakeholders in the industry will be taking part, with other unions and the TUC, in a lobby of Parliament organised by trade association Airlines UK, and the travel industry.

UK action

There will also be similar demonstrations at regional airports including Belfast, Edinburgh and Manchester.

WHEN: Wednesday 23 June 12:30

WHERE: College Green, House of Commons, London SW1P 3BD

New report

To coincide with the day of action Unite has published a new report compiled by leading consultancy Syndex COVID 19: UK Civil Aviation Needs a Specific Job Protection Scheme which reveals that the UK aviation sector is in an especially precarious position as the level of support it has received from the government has been far lower than other European countries.

Of even greater concern, the Syndex report reveals that while the UK’s CJRS is set to finish at the end of September, similar schemes in other European countries will operate for far longer. This gives a massive economic advantage to airlines operating in these countries. Where airlines operate in more than one country, it increases the likelihood of operators opting for large-scale redundancies in the UK throughout aviation.

Aviation heavily affected

Aviation is the sector of the economy which has been most drastically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the rest of the economy is emerging from lockdown, the airline industry has recently returned large numbers of workers onto furlough, as a direct result of government policies.

Three key measures

Unite is calling on the government to act to introduce three policies which will dramatically improve the industry’s prospects:

  • Transparency – in the government’s traffic light scheme so that the industry can better understand how the criteria is being applied to the data in ministerial decision making
  • Logistics – when aviation does open up, funding/resources are needed to avoid operational challenges. For example, how to avoid long queues at check in whilst passengers are showing their proof of vaccination and test results, and how big queues at arrivals and the prospect of mixing passengers from different countries will be dealt with
  • CJRS – A sector specific extension so that aviation can survive an increasingly bleak looking summer and autumn and still exists into 2022 without more redundancies, pay cuts and even company collapses.

Joint call of action

Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: “It is totally unprecedented for all areas of the aviation sector and the travel industry to come together with a joint call of action for the government.

“Hopes of a gradual recovery in the aviation sector have been placed in the deep freeze as a direct result of government policies. Therefore the government has a moral duty to act and act swiftly.

“Aviation is essential to the long-term success of the UK’s economy, and to keeping people connected. If a meaningful, sustainable and resilient industry is going to be in place when travel can return, then the government must provide immediate support for the workers who will make this happen.”

Lack of UK government support

Unite national officer, Oliver Richardson, said: “The Syndex report lays bare the simple fact the UK’s aviation sector has received completely underwhelming support compared to our European competitors.

“Aviation workers are very fearful for their futures, they know that the furlough scheme is due to end in September and that the industry will not have recovered by that time.

“If the government does not remove the looming cliff edge of closing the furlough scheme then the aviation industry faces huge job losses, which will be made even worse as other European countries are committed to continuing to protect their aviation industries.”