'Wish you were here - to save aviation jobs'

UK protests urge chancellor to keep aviation promise and prevent industry being ‘devastated’

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UK-wide protests will be held between Saturday 8 August and Monday 10 August to demand chancellor Rishi Sunak prevents the UK’s aviation industry from being ‘devastated’ by fulfilling his promise to provide support for the sector.

In contrast to the crisis hit airports currently seen around the country, August 9 marked the busiest day of 2019 for global air travel.

Around 60,000 redundancies – equivalent to the population of Tunbridge Wells – at airlines, airports and other aviation-related businesses have already been announced, however the government is yet to implement a plan to secure the sector’s recovery.

This is in stark difference to the decisive and job saving actions taken by other countries, such as Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, in relation to their aviation sectors.

Members of Unite will be demonstrating outside of airports and other locations across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as campaigning on social media, to demand ‘immediate government support’ for the sector.

Unite is also urging members of the public to send Rishi Sunak a digital ‘wish you were here… to save UK aviation jobs’ postcard.

The union said aviation workers are ‘desperate’ for Rishi Sunak to keep a pledge he made in March to support the sector. This would allow it to weather the temporary impacts of Covid-19 and protect the quarter of a million jobs it supports directly, as well as the more than one million it supports indirectly.

“In March, Rishi Sunak pledged assistance for the UK’s aviation sector, which supports well over a million jobs directly and indirectly and contributes £22 billion to the economy every year,” said Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland. “Over four months later, help is still yet to arrive, with thousands of jobs lost as a result.

“The government has ignored warning after warning in the months since the pandemic began and this crucial industry is now facing being devastated, even as other countries have taken decisive steps to protect their aviation sectors. Mr Sunak must follow their example and take urgent action.”

Unite national officer Oliver Richardson added, “UK aviation workers, as well as the communities and businesses that rely on the sector, are desperate for Mr Sunak to keep his word. He must provide immediate government support so the industry can weather the temporary impacts of the pandemic and emerge once again as a vital driver of the economy.

“It is also crucial that employers avoid knee-jerk reactions and take the approach of firm’s such as Ryanair, where redundancies have been prevented by working with Unite on measures like temporary tiered pay reductions and job pooling.”

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.

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.

Protests will be held on Saturday, August 8 in Birmingham, Belfast, Glasgow, Edinburgh and East Midlands airport, while on Monday, August 10, protests will be held in Stansted, Heathrow and Bristol.

Find out more by contacting your regional office.

By Ryan Fletcher

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