British Airways health warning: Government must act now to protect aviation industry, demands Unite

Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, is calling on the government to act immediately to prevent a haemorrhaging of jobs and to preserve the aviation industry, due to the massive drop in demand as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

Multiple warnings

The call follows multiple warnings by airlines about their financial future and comes after the collapse of Flybe last week.  BA’s chief executive Alex Cruz released a video message, that potentially hundreds of planes will be grounded and that this could affect thousands of jobs.

Norwegian has announced it is to temporarily lay off half its staff, and the UK’s largest ground handler Swissport has advised of significant potential staff reductions.

Aviation crisis

There have been hundreds more potential redundancies suggested in airlines and their supply chains, while the future of several regional UK airports has been thrown into doubt.

In order to offset job losses, lay offs and preserve the integrity of the industry for the future Unite has joined with other unions across Europe and called for the government act, in particular to address the impact on airline cash flow due to the dramatic drop in bookings as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19) and to introduce:

  • The extension of loans to airlines and airports and other aviation companies to enable them to ease the pressure of the immediate pay back of loans and to assist in the retention of staff and the preservation of routes
  • A delay in the payment of taxes and duties that airlines are obliged to pay including a temporary suspension or reduction in Air Passenger Duty (APD)
  • Government to support additional routes which would be open to subsidy as routes under public service obligation rules, which are tied to long-term environmental commitments as part of an integrated sustainable transport network
  • Consideration of taking a financial stake in airlines to help ensure their survival and / or temporally contributing to workers pay to ensure that the UK’s aviation infrastructure remains intact.

Supply chain fears

Unite believes that consideration of support must also apply to airlines’ supply chains which also must remain intact in order for the aviation industry to recover as quickly as possible once the coronavirus threat passes.

Other European governments including France, Germany, and the Netherlands are already in talks to provide financial assistance to their airlines, which could include governments taking a stake in the airline or paying a proportion of employees’ wages.

Unite engagement

Unite national officer for aviation Oliver Richardson who has been in the negotiations with British Airways said: “British Airways has been engaging with Unite at this very difficult time.

 “Unite is absolutely committed to finding a joint way forward to preserve jobs and to preserve the airline.

 “The fact that BA is being forced to take such measures, emphasises how difficult it is for smaller less established companies and that these problems are being faced by the whole of aviation and underline the desperate need for government support.”

Immediate government action

Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said “The aviation industry is facing an unprecedented crisis and the government, must act immediately to preserve jobs and ensure the future of the aviation industry.

 “The measures that Unite is calling for the government to introduce will help preserve the industry and ensure that it can survive the current crisis.

 “The aviation industry is suffering a short term emergency but without government support the infrastructure to return the industry to normal once the coronavirus crisis has passed will simply not exist.

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