Unite sets out four-point Covid-19 plan for aviation industry

Elliot Chappell

Unite the Union has devised a four-point plan that it says the government must adopt in order to ensure that the aviation industry “survives” the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic.

General secretary Len McCluskey has called for the implementation of the plan, designed alongside sister aviation unions across Europe, in a letter to the Prime Minister today.

The trade union has declared that Boris Johnson should implement an urgent and comprehensive financial package to support the sector, or risk losing tens of thousands of jobs.

McCluskey also requested a meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss the industry’s call for an emergency summit and the challenges that aviation faces in light of coronavirus.

In his letter, McCluskey wrote: “We must raise serious concerns at the highest levels of government regarding this imminent crisis. If you do not take urgent action to support the aviation industry in the UK, there is absolute certainty that tens of thousands of jobs will be put at risk, and the industry will be unable to resume effectively once this health crisis has passed.

“It is essential that the government listens to and works with unions, airlines, airports and other key stakeholders in aviation, to ensure that we take a managed approach throughout this period of uncertainty, and provide immediate support for the whole sector, in order to help it survive this pandemic.

“Without the government’s help, the aviation industry could plunge into an unprecedented crisis, with thousands of jobs under threat. Furthermore, if left unchecked, the long-term damage to the industry and infrastructure could have enormous effects on the economy.

“We urge you to release government funding immediately, so the industry, and the jobs within it, can survive what will effectively be a period of dormancy during the next difficult period.”

The four-point plan put forward by the union urges the government to take the following action:

  1. Make contributions to cover workers’ pay to ensure that the UK’s aviation infrastructure remains intact, and to consider taking a commensurate financial stake in airlines and airports to help ensure their survival;
  2. Make loans available 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;
  3. Delay payment of taxes and duties that airlines are obliged to pay including a temporary suspension or reduction in air passenger duty; and
  4. Support routes through subsidies under public service obligation rules, which are tied to long-term environmental commitments as part of an integrated sustainable transport network.

McCluskey added: “Other European countries including France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands are already working on measures to support their aviation industries. It is only right that the UK does not get left behind.

“There is no doubt that the aviation industry will be forced in some areas to enter a period of dormancy. You, Prime Minister, have a choice to either support it, and all those that depend on it, through this period, or risk it facing serious problems that it may be unable to overcome.”

Travel restrictions and a slump in demand have forced airlines across the world to lay off staff and cancel flights, leaving both consumers and workers in uncertainty.

Many airlines have struggled to cope with the unprecedented challenge. Flybe collapsed earlier this month, citing the virus as a key factor. British Airways owner IAG is planning to cut capacity by at least 75% in April and May.

Unite the Union represents tens of thousands of workers in the aviation sector, including staff across all major airlines, airports and those working in supply chains.

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