Government must intervene to prevent ‘tsunami’ of regional job losses following Flybe collapse and coronavirus fears

Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, which represents tens of thousands of members in regional airports and supply chains, is warning that government inaction will lead to thousands of workers losing their jobs in the sector.

Job fears

Within hours of Flybe going into administration, Unite has already been contacted by regional airports and companies in the supply chain undertaking functions such as baggage handling, refuelling and catering, warning of large job losses unless immediate action is taken.

The situation is being made worse by current concerns about the Coronavirus that has resulted in a dramatic collapse in both bookings and passengers on flights from UK airports.

Government inaction

Following the government’s broken promise to protect Flybe and its previous failure to intervene to preserve both Monarch and Thomas Cook the statement from aviation minister Kelly Tolhurst MP to the House of Commons today (Thursday 5 March): “The government stand ready to support the sector, and I have full confidence that it will respond as effectively as it always has”, has done nothing to allay the fears amongst the industry’s workforce.

In conjunction with other European transport unions, Unite is calling on the government to help preserve the airline industry and protect regional airports and local economies.

Support measures

The measures the government should introduce include:

  • The extension and creation of loans to airlines to ensure they can retain staff and routes until bookings recover
  • A delay in the payment of taxes and duties that airlines are obliged to pay
  • Subsidising key routes by government to ensure routes previously operated by Flybe are rapidly filled by other carriers.

Gut punch

Unite national officer for civil aviation Oliver Richardson said: “The collapse of Flybe has been a gut punch to regional airports and their supply chains which are already struggling due to coronavirus fears and post Brexit concerns.

 “The demise of Flybe means that thousands of jobs at regional airports and in supply chains are hanging by a thread.

 “The government has it in its power to avoid a tsunami of job losses by taking immediate measures to ensure that there is not an immediate jobs cull in the regional airport sector.

 “These measures include introducing subsidies for key routes and allowing for airlines and airports to delay paying taxes and duties.

 “By taking these measures the government will have demonstrated that it is finally taking regional airports, regional connectivity and regional economies seriously.

 “Inaction, cannot be an option as it will lead to thousands of job losses in a sector which is already under pressure.”

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