Unite the union, which represents over 68,000 workers in the aviation sector, has described as “grim” a warning from Hounslow council in west London that the local economy will be devastated by the substantial downturn of activity at nearby Heathrow airport as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hounslow council is warning that a third of the 100,000 households in the borough could be affected by job losses due to reduced activity at Heathrow airport, resulting in the local economy contracting by 40 per cent.
In total 84,400 people are directly employed at the airport, which hosts 320 businesses making it the largest workplace in Europe.
Last week Unite published research which underlined Heathrow’s importance to the UK’s economy as it generates £9.7 billion in income, supporting around 190,000 jobs across the UK. A massive 40 per cent of the workforce in the surrounding area is employed in the aviation sector.
Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said: “Hounslow’s warning about job losses puts a human face on the terrible predicament the aviation sector faces now and will continue to face without urgent government support.
“The aviation sector will recover from the pandemic but it must be given time in which to do so and that is why it is vital that he government provides a bespoke package of support for the industry.
“The chancellor first promised such a package in March but over two months later nothing has been forthcoming.
“Businesses also have a responsibility to play their part. Employers need to exhaust all options before making job losses and redundancies must be minimised.
“Workers have made those businesses the success they are today and as the industry recovers it is vital that their skills, commitment and loyalty are not lost from the sector.
“The people who live in Hounslow and surrounding areas play vital roles at Heathrow. They are the security guards, cleaners, baggage handlers and caterers, or they work in the retail outlets, all of which keep the airports functioning.
“Many of them have worked all their lives at Heathrow. The loss of their jobs it would be devastating for them, their families and the Hounslow community.”
Unite has produced a blueprint of how the government should intervene across the entire aviation sector including airlines and airports to protect the jobs and conditions of workers. Such loans would come with strict strings attached regarding executive pay, corporate governance and requiring stringent environmental standards to be adopted to radically reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.