Govt failure to support industry is ‘green light’ to sack workers says Unite

60k aviation industry jobs hang in the balance

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Aviation workers from two companies which have made brutal cuts on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic are bringing their call for the government to provide long-promised support to the sector to Parliament tomorrow (Wednesday September 2).

The workers – all members of Unite the union, which is organising the demonstration – include those currently employed by low cost airline easyJet and Dnata Catering UK (formerly known as Alpha LSG), the UK’s leading inflight caterers, as well as those who have recently lost their jobs with easyJet.

Unite is warning that the government’s persistent refusal to provide support for the aviation sector, despite its promise to do so, has given employers like easyJet a ‘green light’ to attack jobs.

Yesterday (August 31), easyJet closed its bases at Newcastle, Southend and Stansted airports with the loss of over 600 cabin crew jobs. In total the company is in the process of making over 1,200 cabin crew redundant, one quarter of its entire cabin crew workforce.

The easyJet campaigners will be displaying a banner which reads ‘Orange Outrage, Easy Option Taken’.

Meanwhile workers at Dnata Catering UK are facing a ‘fire and rehire’ scenario which will see them have their pay and conditions cuts and will be employed on contracts of just 20 hours a week, plunging them into poverty.

In March, chancellor Rishi Sunak promised specific sectoral support for the aviation industry.  But unlike other European countries such as France, Germany and Spain, the promised support for UK workers has not materialised.

Unite has warned that 60,000 aviation industry jobs hang in the balance and has called upon the government to act with urgency to extend the jobs retention scheme in order to stabilise a now exceptionally volatile sector.

Unite has written to MPs of all parties inviting them to show their support for the workers by joining the demonstrators for a socially distanced photo opportunity, or, where they cannot attend, to provide supportive messages on social media.

“The government’s failure to provide specific support to the aviation industry with safeguards to protect staff has given easyJet the green light to slash staff numbers,” commented Unite regional officer Lindsey Olliver who represents easyJet workers.

“The UK government needs to take decisive action to support workers and to keep them in work rather than force them into unemployment and have to support them through paying benefits.

“The UK has failed to keep step with our foreign counterparts, leaving workers in Britain to shoulder the heaviest burden of job losses.

“The impact of these decisions is not only detrimental to those who have lost their livelihoods but it has a knock on effect for local communities and regional connectivity.

“By failing to impose conditions on its loans and honouring public service obligations the government has enabled companies such as easyJet to close regional bases leaving foreign operators to capitalise on the UK’s misfortune and fill the void to their own advantage,” she added.

“It is vital that MPs understand what is happening to workers in the aviation sector, particularly to the service providers such as airline caterers,” said Unite regional officer Sheeren Higginson who represents catering workers at Heathrow.

“We call upon MPs from right across the Commons to show that they stand with these workers and support their fight for a future.

“The workforce are facing the stress and anxiety of being put on extensive short time working and the grim prospect of detrimental changes in contracts being imposed, which will plunge them into poverty leaving them unable to make ends meet.

“The pandemic has had a huge effect on the aviation sector and these already low paid workers are paying the very real price for the government’s failure to step in,” Higginson added.

Together with the TUC and all aviation unions, Unite is calling for the government to take on the economic and fiscal measures needed to support the sector, including The extension of, and modifications to, the coronavirus job retention scheme to protect employment in the aviation sector; suspension of air passenger duty; public service obligation routes to ensure regional connectivity; business rate relief for airports (as in Scotland and Northern Ireland);  extending the period of repayment of loans to aviation companies beyond the current two year maximum.

The full list of measures can be found on Unite’s urgent summer update to its ‘Flying into the Future’ blueprint, which was first published in May in response to the coronavirus crisis.


Last week over 100 MPs wrote to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling on the job retention scheme to be extended, initially to March 2021.


A parliamentary petition has also been launched which is calling on the government to extend the furloughs scheme for the aviation sector.

By Barckley Sumner

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