Boris Johnson needs to implement an urgent comprehensive financial package to support the aviation industry, otherwise tens of thousands of jobs will be at risk, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Monday 16 March).
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has called for a meeting with the prime minister to discuss the industry's call for an emergency summit and what support it needs due to the adverse impact of the coronavirus on air travel across the globe.
Unite, alongside sister aviation unions across Europe, has devised a four point plan, which the government should adopt to ensure the whole industry survives.
In his letter to the prime minister, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The industry has been rocked by the onset of Covid-19, with flight cancellations and the grounding of flights severely impacting on airports and the wider supply chains.
“We must raise serious concerns at the highest levels of government regarding this imminent crisis. If you do not take urgent action to support the aviation industry in the UK, there is absolute certainty that tens of thousands of jobs will be put at risk, and the industry will be unable to resume effectively once this health crisis has passed.
“It is essential that the government listens to and works with unions, airlines, airports and other key stakeholders in aviation, to ensure that we take a managed approach throughout this period of uncertainty, and provide immediate support for the whole sector, in order to help it survive this pandemic.
“Without the government’s help, the aviation industry could plunge into an unprecedented crisis, with thousands of jobs under threat. Furthermore, if left unchecked, the long-term damage to the industry and infrastructure could have enormous effects on the economy.
“We urge you to release government funding immediately, so the industry, and the jobs within it, can survive what will effectively be a period of dormancy during the next difficult period.”
The four-point plan that Unite wants ministers to implement is:
- The government to make contributions to cover workers’ pay to ensure that the UK's aviation infrastructure remains intact, and the consideration of taking a commensurate financial stake in airlines and airports to help ensure their survival.
- The extension of loans to airlines and airports and other aviation companies to enable them to ease the pressure of the immediate pay back of loans and to assist in the retention of staff and the preservation of routes.
- A delay in the payment of taxes and duties that airlines are obliged to pay including a temporary suspension or reduction in Air Passenger Duty (APD)
- Government to support routes through subsidies under public service. obligation rules, which are tied to long-term environmental commitments as part of an integrated sustainable transport network.
Such assistance must apply to the whole aviation industry including airlines, airports (national and regional) and its supply chain.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey added: “Unite is working with airlines, airports and the supply chain, to preserve jobs and companies for the future and it is essential that the government plays its part. Other European countries including France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands are already working on measures to support their aviation industries. It is only right that the UK does not get left behind.
“There is no doubt that the aviation industry will be forced in some areas to enter a period of dormancy. You, prime minister, have a choice to either support it, and all those that depend on it, through this period, or risk it facing serious problems that it may be unable to overcome.
“I would like to request a meeting at your earliest convenience, and also to draw your attention to the industry's call for an emergency summit. As the union that represents most of the staff in the aviation sector, Unite should be invited to any such summit, and all other relevant meetings on this issue. As such a key stakeholder it is vital that we have a seat at the table.”
Unite represents tens of thousands of workers throughout the entire aviation industry. Unite’s membership spans all major airlines, airports and ground handlers and their staff, as well those who work in supply chains. Unite is the union that represents most of the staff in this sector.