Don’t let 2020’s aviation industry become the new 1980s’ coal

Help us now or 124k jobs could go says new report

Reading time: 5 min

A new report out today (June 11) on the UK’s aviation industry is saying as many as 124,000 jobs in the industry 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.

It also recommends the government takes an equity stake in any businesses that are bailed out, with conditions attached to limit executive pay and shareholder dividends while requiring investment in green technology and carbonisation.

“The aviation industry faces job losses on a par with the worst years of the UK coal industry decline in the 1980s,” believes Alex Chapman, NEF researcher.

“There are rock solid social and economic reasons for preventing the spike in unemployment which is being threatened by aviation bosses, and instead investing heavily in retraining and upskilling aviation workers to prepare them for a new normal, and the rapid decarbonisation of the UK economy,” he added.

As reported in UNITElive – on a daily basis almost – airline workers have taken a massive hit with thousands of job cuts announced since the Covid-19 crisis began. There’s no doubt of the unprecedented, devastating impact Covid-19 has had on aviation – a fact recognised worldwide.

“Aviation is a critical part of our economic infrastructure and it supports tens of thousands of good jobs, commented TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.

“The sector has already been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and the implementation of the quarantine period is a further blow. We cannot consign these workers to the despair of unemployment.

“Aviation needs immediate support – and not just to protect the incomes of billionaire airline owners. Government must act now to protect workers’ jobs and livelihoods, to support the longer-term viability of the sector and to facilitate a just-transition to lower-carbon operations.”

“Tens if not hundreds of thousands of jobs are under threat”

Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland agreed. “Tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of jobs are under threat without specific government support, given the unprecedented effect that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the aviation sector.

“Aviation is central to our economy and in linking people together, connecting regions and providing jobs. As an island we need a viable aviation sector for trade, medicines, mail and work. Air travel is far more than just a leisure activity.

“Governments in Europe and globally have provided financial support for their aviation sectors because they recognise it is vital to an economy, and the UK government needs to do the same,” she added.

She continued, “The French government’s support for its aviation sector must serve as a wake-up call to our own government and also to prompt MPs and businesses alike – because they need to be applying far greater pressure on our government to act decisively and bring forward support without further delay.

“It is three months since chancellor Rishi Sunak promised specific support for aviation as a result of the pandemic – and we are still waiting.

Holland concluded, “Unite believes given the right level of government support the aviation sector will return to viability once the UK emerges from the current pandemic.

“Unite has published a clear blueprint which details a realistic manner in which the government can support the aviation sector, preserve jobs and boost regional connectivity. It is absolutely critical that the government adopts these principles and acts decisively and swiftly.”

Compiled by Amanda Campbell @amanda_unite 

Related Articles