Luton Airport demo

Luton Airport protesters demand chancellor keeps aviation promise and stops regional ‘devastation’

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Workers based at Luton airport will stage a protest tomorrow Friday (August 14) to demand chancellor Rishi Sunak prevents devastation throughout the industry by fulfilling his promise to provide support for the sector.

The protest will take place from 11am at the Airportway Roundabout, Luton Airport, LU2 9LY.

Unite members based at Luton, will hold the socially distanced protest outside the airport to demand ‘immediate government support’ for the sector.

Failure to provide this risks ‘hurting jobs, communities and businesses alike’, the union said.

The demonstration is part of Unite’s UK campaign of action to coincide with what was the busiest time of year for global air travel in 2019.

Around 60,000 jobs from the industry have already been lost, including many at Luton and across the wider region.

The large-scale job losses currently being proposed by easyJet are a further blow for the airport as Luton is the UK’s base of operations for the low cost airline.

Over 27,000 jobs are sustained by the airport, including 9,400 direct jobs and 7,700 indirect jobs. Workers directly employed at the airport account for 10 per cent of employment in the borough of Luton. In total, 77 per cent of employees at the airport live in the three counties of Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire.

For the three counties area the airport contributed £732 million to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and for Luton alone this was worth £533 million.

Unite said aviation workers at Luton are ‘pleading’ with the chancellor to fulfil a promise he made in March to support their sector to allow it to weather the temporary impacts of the pandemic without mass job losses.

The government’s inaction is in stark contrast to the decisive and job-saving measures taken by other countries, such as Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, in relation to their aviation sectors.

A strong aviation sector is also crucial for Eastern England’s aerospace sector, which itself employs 6,700 people.

Unite regional officer Jeff Hodge said, “Aviation workers at Luton airport are pleading with the chancellor to keep the promise he made in March and provide support for the sector. They have now been waiting for months and hundreds of jobs at the airport have been lost as a result.

“The aviation industry is a huge part of the local economy but faces devastation without immediate government support, hurting workers, communities and businesses alike,” he added.

“The delay is inexcusable, especially given the prompt actions of other countries to support their aviation industries.

“Unite is also calling for employers not to hollow out their operations in response to a temporary downturn,” Hodge went on to say.

“Unite has been successful in working with companies such as Ryanair to prevent redundancies through temporary tiered pay reductions and job pooling; we urge other companies to do the same.”

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.

These include the extension of, and modifications to, the coronavirus job retention scheme to protect employment in the aviation sector; the suspension of air passenger duty; public service obligation routes to ensure regional connectivity; business rate relief for airports (as in Scotland and Northern Ireland); and 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 produced in March in response to the coronavirus crisis. The full blueprint can be found here.

By Barckley Sumner

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