Major airline easyJet’s confirmation today (August 5) that it intends to close its bases at Newcastle, Southend and Stansted has been described by Unite, the leading aviation union, “as a kick in the teeth to employees, passengers and three vital regional airports.”
Unite says that the airline’s decision will threaten the viability of the affected airports and is likely to lead to further job losses. The long term future of Southend is particularly unclear as the airport has already seen the closure of the Aer Lingus base, which was operated by Stobart Air.
easyJet is pushing forward with the closure of the three bases despite recently receiving a £600 million loan from the government.
Further, despite the dramatic reduction in passengers as a result of the pandemic, easyJet still went ahead with a dividend payment of £174 million to shareholders.
Since easyJet’s announcement at the end of June that it was intending to close the three bases, Unite has been locked in negotiations with the company to seek a solution to preserve the bases, which easyJet insists are “financially unviable,” but no agreement has yet been found.
Unite national officer for civil aviation Oliver Richardson said, “This is a kick in the teeth for easyJet employees, workers at the affected airports, their passengers and the communities these bases support.
“Unite has tried everything to persuade easyJet to reverse its decision to close the three bases and to consider other options but the company has remained adamant that they are financially unviable,” he added.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, easyJet’s priorities have been wrong; they have sought to pay shareholders dividends, secure a multi-million pound government loan to buy new aircraft, but not to use its cash reserves to defend its own employees’ jobs.
“The decision by the company is heartless and wrong-headed, but these closures demonstrate once again why it is absolutely critical that the government comes forward with a bespoke package of support for the aviation sector which will protect jobs, airports and regional connectivity,” Richardson went on to say.
“A continuing failure by the government to provide such assistance will inevitably result in thousands of entirely unnecessary job losses and a much-diminished UK aviation sector in a world where competitor countries are moving to protect theirs.”
Unite has produced a blueprint for government intervention across the entire aviation sector. Loans to businesses would come with strict strings attached regarding executive pay, corporate governance and would require stringent environmental standards to be adopted to radically reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.
By Barckley Sumner