‘Final call' for aviation support: 5,164 aviation jobs lost every month as industry ‘forgotten’ by government

The UK has suffered twice the jobs losses in aviation and related industries than France and Germany in the past year, according to the UK's leading trade union, Unite. 

Lack of support

Furthermore, on a job by job basis, French and German governments have given more than twice the financial support for every aviation and aerospace job than the UK.  

An estimated 5,164 UK aviation and related jobs have gone every month since February 2020, which is detailed in new research produced by independent experts Acuity Analysis for Unite.  The full report is available here.

Anniversary of government promise

The research is published today (Wednesday 17 March) on the anniversary of the promise made to the sector by the chancellor Rishi Sunak that a support package would be forthcoming

Unite says that the year of delay and limited delivery means that it is now a ‘final call' for a package of support and urges the chancellor -- who made no mention of the sector in his recent Budget - to make good on his commitment in order to assist the sector to build its way out of this crisis.

Job losses

The report estimates that across aviation and aerospace, 61,973 UK jobs have been lost in total, which is double the jobs lost in the equivalent sectors in France and Germany. The shock to aviation will be felt further in local communities as every single aviation job supports 1.3 in the wider economy, including in hospitality and retail.

Acuity Analysis estimates that over the course of the year, the French and German governments have given twice the financial support that was provided to the UK's domestic aviation industry, and as a result has saved twice as many jobs.  

Limited help

Unlike France and Germany, the UK government has not only failed to be forthcoming with its promised sector-specific package but the support offered to businesses is of limited scope and comes with qualifying conditions that simply cannot be met by the majority of companies within the industry.  

Unite argues that given that UK passenger numbers are entirely determined by the easing or tightening of government-imposed travel restrictions, the government ought to play a leading role in the sector’s recovery.

Proactive assistance needed

This will include investment in passenger confidence-building measures for when travel is again possible, such as proactive ‘testing and tracing’ and reduced quarantining. 

When the vaccination programme targeting age and medical risk is completed, the union says that customer-facing aviation workers should be considered as priority transport workers for vaccination.

Heartbreaking job losses

Calling upon the chancellor to make good on his outstanding commitment to aviation workers, Unite assistant general secretary for transport, Diana Holland said: "It has been heartbreaking to see so many UK jobs go in aviation when we know that demand will come back. 

“A staggering number of workers in the sector are now unemployed but when we look across the Channel, we see that a different approach from governments actually saves these jobs.

"All we are asking is that the government keeps to its promise. It has been a year since the chancellor promised a support package for UK aviation.  This may now be ‘the final call’ for that support.  Without it, this industry will not recover at the speed, nor on the scale of our competitors. 

“This is also the time to invest in our air industry so that it is more resilient, able to weather future crises, and that it emerges from this crisis as a more climate-friendly mode of travel.”

Sector support vital

Oliver Richardson, Unite officer for civil aviation added: "This research confirms what we've been saying to the government for the past year; the sector needs targeted, intelligent support if we are to maintain this vital strategic infrastructure.  

"Shedding jobs on this scale is not just a massive shock to the airport and aviation sector, but that the effects will be seen in high streets across the country as retail and hospitality suffer the knock-on effects of a shrunken industry.

"It is impossible to explain to aviation workers why the governments of France and Germany have moved to protect their jobs, but the UK government has not. But it is not too late. The UK government should step forward now with the package of measures that can kick-start an aviation recovery and benefit the wider economy."

Unprecedented collapse in demand

Throughout 2020, UK aviation suffered from an unprecedented collapse in demand for air travel with air traffic 70 per cent lower than the previous year. The interconnected impact on ground handling, airports, and the whole supply chain is devastating.

Unite is calling for the promised government aviation support package to be delivered and include targeted payroll support, conditional government loans, grants and requirements to maintain and expand PSOs (public service obligation routes) to ensure regional connectivity.  

The union also wants to see guarantees around the minimum provision of ground support and air navigation services at levels that will deliver a quick recovery as volume increases.