Yvonne Fovargue MP: Stakes are high for aviation sector
The aviation industry is critical to the Greater Manchester and UK economy, the government must act quickly to put in place a support package that protects short term jobs and helps stimulates transition to a green economy.
Last week I met with representatives of Manchester Airport to receive an alarm call on the dire impact of the current pandemic on the sector.
The stakes are high, and the numbers are huge - 1.6 million jobs depend on the UK’s aviation sector.
In recent weeks, Virgin Atlantic, Ryan Air and British Airways have all announced job cuts.
In the case of British Airways, management are cynically using Covid-19 as a cover for fundamental changes to their loyal workforce.
To lose 12,000 jobs while drawing down taxpayer funding for the ‘Job Retention Scheme’ is an abuse the government have allowed to take place.
To then go further and threaten staff with changes to terms and conditions on a ‘fire and rehire’ basis is totally unacceptable when our country needs everyone to act in the national interest as we fight the virus.
British Airways must halt their moves to sack staff, stop the transfer of staff to erode terms and conditions so they can give time to work with the trade unions on these issue once we are through the worst of the virus. I believe the government should step in where necessary to protect employment and our economy, but it cannot be an unconditional bailout for companies.
The government must ensure that support packages are used to support staff, protect the UK supply chain and for measures crucial to tackling the impact of the pandemic and climate emergency.
The future of aviation and its role in the UK economy cannot be known at this stage, but we know any recovery will be prolonged.
Any restructuring must be supported with support for workers and our regional economies, and which capitalises on the opportunities to grow industries in green technology.
So any support for the sector in the short term must come with suitable conditions that include the protection of staff salaries and a clear commitment to workers’ rights;
There must be a clear commitment to tackling climate change and for the industry to use cleaner fuels and other cutting-edge low or zero emission technologies; Any company in receipt of money must ensure their tax base is in the UK and no dividends should be paid until the company is proven to be commercially viable, as we have seen in other countries.
A commitment to pay UK based suppliers as a priority and without delay, and all consumer right regulations - particularly with regards to giving full refunds – should be honoured in a timely manner.
The Government must act now to ensure a robust plan is in place to protect jobs in the sector and set clear commitments to help tackle the climate emergency.