Aviation job losses continue to mount

Heathrow axes 500 ambassadors and Stobart Air closes base in Southend Airport

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Job losses in the civil aviation sector continue to mount after Heathrow Airport announced it would axe 500 ambassadors, and Stobart Air said it would close its base in Southend Airport.

The Heathrow ambassadors were employed by ABM on a contract entirely funded by Heathrow Airport and the entire workforce will now be made redundant.

The 500-strong workforce was employed across all of Heathrow’s five terminals and were responsible for assisting passengers complete security and passport control on departure, and also assisted arrivals with clearing passport control, collecting baggage and accessing connecting flights, ensuring that passengers are not lost.

Many of the ambassadors have continued to work throughout the pandemic taking on 15 extra tasks over and above their normal roles.

The loss of 500 jobs is another harsh blow to the local economy. Hounslow council earlier this month warned that a third of the 100,000 households in the borough could be affected by job losses at the airport and the local economy could contract by 40 per cent.

Commenting, Unite regional officer Balvinder Bir said, “Heathrow airport has brutally ditched a loyal and dedicated group of workers who have been undertaking additional work since the pandemic began.

“The ambassadors at Heathrow provided a premium service in assisting passengers to access and leave the airport,” he added. “Their removal will severely detract from customers’ positive experience at the airport in future.

“This is the latest group of workers to have fallen victim to the government’s failure to bring forward specific support to the aviation industry as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Unless specific support is finally forthcoming thousands more jobs are at risk.

“If Heathrow wants to maintain its position as a key hub airport in Europe then it needs to urgently review this decision. Unite will ensure that all affected members are fully consulted and receive everything that they are entitled to.”

Research commissioned by Unite has found that Heathrow generates £9.7bn for the economy and supports a total of 190,000 jobs. In total 40 per cent of the local population is reliant on the aviation sector for their livelihood.

Stobart Air closes base at Southend Airport

Meanwhile, Stobart Air announced it would be closing its base at Southend airport.

The company provided pilots and cabin crew for Aer Lingus’ regional services operating from the airport. The announcement will result in 66 workers being made redundant.

Unite regional officer Jo Jaques said, “This announcement is a bitter blow to the workforce who now face a highly uncertain future.

“Stobart Air’s decision is also a severe blow for the airport more widely,” she added. “This is yet another example of why it is essential that the government brings forward specific support for the aviation industry in order to prevent further job losses and secure the future of regional airports such as Southend.

“Unite will be ensuring that all our members who are affected by this announcement are properly treated and receive everything they are entitled to.”

In April Unite succeeded in persuading Stobart Air to place the workforce on furlough rather placing them on unpaid leave.

Aviation job losses report

The latest job losses in aviation come in the wake of a report out last week which found that as many as many as 124,000 jobs in the sector and its supply chain are at risk and could vanish in just three months as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report, written jointly by the New Economics Foundation (NEF), with the Trades Union Congress (TUC), aviation unions including Unite, and climate action charity Possible, insists that without government bailouts designed around protecting workers, at least 70,000 jobs are likely to be lost.

Of those, 39,000 are directly employed in aviation, with the remainder in the supply chain – including jobs such as engineers and duty free shop assistants.

The report goes on to describe this scale of job losses as equal to the collapse of Britain’s coal industry in 1980-81. And the research authors warn that the true number of losses is likely to be higher by the end of the financial year next April.

Calling on the government to expand its existing Covid-19 job retention scheme to include specific help for aviation industry workers, proposals include retraining staff whose jobs are vulnerable – with some of the costs being covered by future taxes on the sector.

Unite has also produced a blueprint of how the government should intervene across the entire aviation sector including airlines and airports to protect the jobs and conditions of workers. Such loans would come with strict strings attached regarding executive pay, corporate governance and requiring stringent environmental standards to be adopted to radically reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.

By UniteLive team

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