The announcement today (Wednesday August 26) that Gatwick Airport is to make 600 workers redundant is another bitter blow to the south east and highlights the government’s chronic failure to support the aviation sector during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The job losses amount to roughly a quarter of the workforce directly employed at Gatwick Airport.
Unite, the UK’s principal aviation union, has been in initial consultation with the airport in a bid to avert sweeping redundancies.
A voluntary redundancy process is already underway but if there are insufficient applicants the employers will move to impose compulsory redundancies.
Gatwick, the UK’s second largest airport, has been very heavily hit by the Covid-19 pandemic with major airlines including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Norwegian suspending flights or closing operations at the airport.
“This is a bitter blow for the workers and once again highlights the chronic failure of the government to support the aviation sector, despite promises way back in March that it would do so,” commented Unite regional officer Jamie Major.
“Unite will be entering into formal negotiations with Gatwick Airport to ensure that redundancies are minimised and that all redundancy procedures are fair and fully transparent.
“During this incredibly difficult time it is important that the workers are aware that they will be fully supported by Unite.
“The entire workforce at Gatwick has been left reeling by the job losses as a direct result of the pandemic.
“There are thousands of workers who are employed directly by the airport, by an airline, by a contractor or in the supply chain who are under threat of redundancy or who have already lost their jobs.
“The sheer scale of job losses is having a devastating effect on the local community and the local economy.
“It is why it is absolutely essential that the government actively intervenes and provides direct support for the aviation sector to allow it to recover from the pandemic.
“The extension of the job retention scheme well into 2021 would be an important first step and would help stem the jobs carnage that is currently being experienced,” Major concluded.
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.
*Main pic from 2019
By Barckley Sumner