Luton Airport jobs 'hammer blow'

Luton Airport workers face grim future as government inaction bites

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Workers employed by Menzies Aviation at Luton Airport are facing a grim future as the company has announced it intends to cut 176 jobs, around half of its workforce.

Menzies currently employs 374 workers at Luton with the workers facing the axe in key roles including baggage handling, ramp agents, bus drivers and customer service positions.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic many of workers at Menzies have been furloughed under the government’s job retention scheme but that support ceases at the end of October.

Unite, the principal aviation union and which represents the affected workers, received notification of the proposed redundancies on Wednesday (September 16), the day that the union had warned the `floodgates’ would open on redundancies unless the government modified the jobs retention scheme.

The union also says that despite the company planning to reduce staffing levels by 60 per cent overall there are currently no proposals to make any management roles redundant.

While the company is seeking volunteers for redundancy it is not offering any enhanced terms, which will almost certainly result in a large number of compulsory redundancies.

The workforce is predominantly based in Luton and the Bedfordshire area with the local economy hard hit by job losses throughout the airport and related industries.

Unite regional officer Jeff Hodge said, “Unite warned that the 16th September would be a grim day for workers unless the government signalled that further jobs assistance was on its way.

“They did not and as a result around half of the Menzies workforce at Luton airport will lose their jobs.

“This is not just a hammer blow for the workers affected but for Luton itself as the sheer level of job losses at the airport is having a terrible effect on the local economy,” he added.

“The real villains are the government who first promised to provide specific support to the aviation industry in March. The promised and vitally needed support has failed to materialise.

“With the end of furlough fast approaching aviation companies, which have been the sector worst affected by the pandemic, are looking over a cliff edge and as a result job losses are increasing,” Hodge went on to say.

“The aviation industry is viable once Covid-19 is under control but the industry cannot bounce back if it continues to lose jobs like these.

“The bottom line is that workers should not be paying with their jobs.”

Unite will be entering into negotiations with Menzies to mitigate the number of job losses, seek enhancements for voluntary redundancies to reduce the need for compulsory job losses and to ensure that the redundancy process is fair and transparent.

Together with the TUC and all aviation unions, Unite is calling for the government to adopt the economic and fiscal measures needed to support the sector. This includes: 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); 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 in Unite’s urgent summer update to its ‘Flying into the Future’ blueprint, which was first published in May in response to the coronavirus crisis. 

By Barckley Sumner

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