Over 100 MPs have joined forces to press the chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the job retention scheme (JRS) for the aviation sector until March 2021.

Government assistance needed

The MPs have signed a letter, coordinated by Unite the union and published today (Friday), which urges the chancellor to help stop the crisis engulfing the sector and also to recognise the wider economic benefits of keeping workers active within the sector, not unemployed and collecting benefits.

The aviation industry has been among the sectors hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic with, according to Unite, 60,000 jobs in the sector (about the population of Tunbridge Wells) hanging in the balance.  

Ongoing jobs cull

In recent weeks easyJet has cut its UK workforce by roughly a third, including closing three of its bases and the future of many regional airports looks bleak, while this week Gatwick airport announced that it was making one in four, 600 workers, redundant.

With support building and more signatories coming in, the union says that for the government `doing nothing should not be an option'.  The letter to the chancellor, who promised back in March to provide assistance to the under-siege sector, calls on him to help prevent massive loss of jobs and skills by urgently announcing that the JRS would continue for UK aviation.

High profile supporters

Notable signatories include Henry Smith the Conservative MP for Crawley (which covers Gatwick Airport), Labour’s transport spokesperson Jim McMahon, the party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner and a total of 12 members of the shadow cabinet.

Other prominent signatories including Gavin Newlands of the Scottish National Party, who is proposing legislation to prevent the controversial `fire and rehire' practices by companies like British Airways, and senior members of the Democratic Unionist Party including Jeffrey Donaldson.  Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine and Steve Rotheram, the mayor of the Liverpool City Region, have also signed the letter.

Unemployment spike

The letter acknowledges that the industry will not be in a position to make a recovery until at least 2021 and says: “Furloughing workers and smoothing a possible unemployment spike is potentially more economically viable and certainly more sustainable than government expenditure on benefits. 

"Importantly it would also ensure that the skills and the infrastructure that the industry requires to return to capacity are retained.”

Political support 

Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: “The cross-party support of over 100 MPs all calling for an extension of the job retention scheme for the aviation sector is welcomed, and more political support is coming in every day.

 “This is a clear message to the chancellor that government action to protect people working in aviation is vital. Doing nothing should not be an option for the government.

 “Thousands of people, jobs and businesses depend on the aviation sector.

 “Aviation will take time to rebuild from the Covid-19 pandemic. It makes economic sense for the government to extend the JRS to protect jobs, as the sector rebuilds rather than thousands of professional skilled workers losing their jobs and being forced to claim benefits.”

Principal aviation union

Unite, the UK’s principal aviation union, represents people working in airlines, airports and throughout the aviation supply chain.

Together with the TUC and all aviation unions, Unite is calling for the government to take on the economic and fiscal measures needed to support the sector, including:

  • The extension of, and modifications to, the coronavirus job retention scheme to protect employment in the aviation sector 
  • Suspension of air passenger duty
  • Public service obligation routes to ensure regional connectivity 
  • Business rate relief for airports (as in Scotland and Northern Ireland) 
  • Extending the period of repayment of loans to aviation companies beyond the current two year maximum.

Blueprint for aviation

The full list of measures can be found on Unite’s urgent summer update to its Flying into the Future’ blueprint, which was first published in May in response to the coronavirus crisis. 

ENDS

Notes to editors:

 Full copy of the letter sent to Rishi Sunak 

 Dear Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP,
 
It is sad news for the sector but welcome that the government has acknowledged that the aviation industry was amongst the first to be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and will be amongst the last to recover.
 
We also welcome the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which has provided an essential safety net for workers and businesses across the UK. 
 
While the scheme is still in place, no company acting in the national interest can justify the need for redundancies.
 
However, as potential future job losses mount and hard-earned pay, terms and conditions and livelihoods are on the line, it is time that further assurances were given to this key strategic sector.
 
The aviation industry works in seasons with significant forward planning, which means current uncertainty has already affected the upcoming Winter season. As such the schedule is fixed with limits to the capacity to scale up
 
We know now that there is no realistic prospect for a quick return to normal when lockdown is lifted, particularly while COVID-19 health measures and social distancing guidance remain in place. 
 
In light of this logic, we urge the government to consider the merits of announcing a long-term extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for the aviation sector.
 
We propose that the scheme is tied to the phased unlocking of restrictions, recognising the sectoral pressures, in this case on the quarantine arrangements and the industry’s seasonal way of working. This means extending the scheme until March 2021, with a review of the extension taking in place in November this year. We propose that the scheme should continue to be set at 80 per cent of pay, with any government contribution being commensurately reduced by any rostered hours worked and paid for by employers. At the very least this should be conditioned on the fair treatment of the workforce, for instance on preventing redundancies and changes to terms and conditions.
 
This proposal has the backing of business, airports, trade unions and cross-party politicians alike who recognise that this would provide some much-needed stability to the industry and would be a vital lifeline to aviation workers across the country.
 
We also believe that it would make sound economic sense.
 
Furloughing workers and smoothing a possible unemployment spike is potentially more economically viable and certainly more sustainable than government expenditure on benefits. Importantly it would also ensure that the skills and the infrastructure that the industry requires to return to capacity are retained.
  
We know that this would make all the difference in ensuring our aviation industry recovers, which is of invaluable importance to the UK economy. 
 
We are extremely concerned about the future of UK aviation and as a result we recognise that urgent action must be taken to save the industry, protect jobs and give security to aviation workers across the country.
 
Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of jobs depend on this sector - we urge you to support these workers and adopt this proposal.

Full List of MPs

Diane Abbott Labour Hackney North and Stoke Newington, Tonia Antoniazzi Labour Gower, Paula Barker Labour Liverpool Wavertree, Olivia Blake Labour Sheffield Hallam, Apsana Begum Labour Poplar and Limehouse, Kevin Brennan Labour Cardiff West,  Deidre Brock SNP Edinburgh North and Leith, Alan Brown SNP Kilmarnock and Loudon, Lyn Brown Labour West Ham, Chris Bryant Labour Rhondda, Richard Burgon Labour Leeds East , Dawn Butler Labour Brent Central, Ian Byrne Labour Liverpool West Derby, Alan Campbell Labour Tynemouth, Dan Carden Labour Liverpool Walton, Sarah Champion Labour Rotherham, Rosie Cooper Labour West Lancashire ,Jeremy Corbyn Labour Islington North, Judith Cummins Labour Bradford South, Alex Cunningham Labour Stockton North, Wayne David Labour Caerphilly, Geraint Davies Labour Swansea West, Alex Davies-Jones Labour Pontypridd, Martyn Day SNP Linlithgow and East Falkirk, Marsha DeCordova Labour Battersea, Jeffrey Donaldson Democratic Unionist Lagan Valley, Allan Dorans SNP Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock, Stephen Doughty Labour Cardiff South and Penarth, Peter Dowd Labour Bootle, Jack Dromey Labour Birmingham Erdington , Angela Eagle Labour Wallasey, Maria Eagle Labour Garston and Halewood, Clive Efford Labour Eltham, Chris Elmore Labour Ogmore , Bill Esterson Labour Sefton Central, Stephen Farry Alliance North Down, Marion Fellows SNP Motherwell and Wishaw, Margaret Ferrier SNP Rutherglen and Hamilton West, Mary Foy Labour City of Durham, Gill Furniss Labour Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, Barry Gardiner Labour Brent North, Patricia Gibson SNP North Ayrshire and Arran, Preet Kaur Gill Labour Birmingham Edgbaston, Neil Gray SNP Airdrie and Shotts, Kate Green Labour Stretford and Urmston, Margaret Greenwood Labour Wirral West, Nia Griffiths Labour Llanelli, Andrew Gwynne Labour Denton and Reddish, Louise Haigh Labour Sheffield Heeley, Neale Hanvey SNP Kircaldy and Cowdenbeath , Sharon Hodgson Labour Washington and Sunderland West, Rachel Hopkins Labour Luton South, Christine Jardine Liberal Democrat Edinburgh West, Dan Jarvis Labour Barnsley Central, Diana Johnson Labour Kingston upon Hull North, Kim Johnson Labour Liverpool Riverside, Gerald Jones Labour Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, Ruth Jones Labour Newport West, Sarah Jones Labour Croydon Central, Mike Kane Labour Wythenshawe and Sale East, Barbara Keeley Labour Worsley and Eccles South, Afzal Khan Labour Manchester Gorton, Ian Lavery Labour Wansbeck, Emma Lewell-Buck Labour South Shields, Carla Lockhart Democratic Unionist Upper Bann, Rebecca Long-Bailey Labour, Salford and Eccles, Kenny MacAskill SNP Edinburgh East and Musselburgh, Justin Madders Labour Ellesmere Port and Neston, Rachael Maskell Labour City of York, Chris Matheson Labour City of Chester, Siobhain McDonagh Labour Mitcham and Morden, Andy McDonald Labour Middlesbrough, Stuart McDonald SNP Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, John McDonnell Labour Hayes and Harlington, Conor McGinn Labour St Helens North, Jim McMahon Labour Oldham West and Royton, Anna McMorrin Labour Cardiff North, John McNally SNP Falkirk, Ian Mearns Labour Gateshead, Nav Mishra Labour Stockport, Jessica Morden Labour Newport East, Stephen Morgan Labour Portsmouth South, Grahame Morris Labour Easington, Ian Murray Labour Edinburgh South, James Murray Labour Ealing North, Lisa Nandy Labour Wigan, Gavin Newlands SNP Paisley and Renfrewshire North, Charlotte Nichols Labour Warrington North, John Nicolson SNP Ochil and South Perthshire, Kate Osborne Labour Jarrow, Sarah Owen Labour Luton North, Ian Paisley Democratic Unionist North Antrim, Stephanie Peacock Labour Barnsley East, Lucy Powell Labour Manchester Central, Angela Rayner Labour Ashton-under-Lyne, Christina Rees Labour Neath, Ellie Reeves Labour Lewisham West and Penge, Jonathan Reynolds Labour Stalybridge and Hyde, Bell Riberio-Addy Labour Streatham, Gavin Robinson Democratic Unionist Belfast East , Mayor Steve Rotheram, Labour Liverpool City Region, Virendra Sharma Labour Ealing Southall, Andy Slaughter Labour Ealing, Acton and Shepherd’s Bush, Cat Smith Labour Lancaster and Fleetwood, Henry Smith Conservative Crawley, Jeff Smith Labour Manchester Withington, Alyn Smith SNP Stirling, John Spellar Labour Warley, Chris Stephens SNP Glasgow South West, Zarah Sultana Labour Coventry South, Mark Tami Labour Alyn and Deeside, Sam Tarry Labour Ilford South, Alison Thewliss SNP Glasgow Central, Richard Thomson SNP Gordon, Jon Trickett Labour Hemsworth, Karl Turner Labour Kingston upon Hull East, Claudia Webbe Labour Leicester East, Catherine West Labour Hornsey and Wood Green, Matt Western Labour Warwick & Leamington, Mick Whitley Labour Birkenhead, Beth Winter Labour Cynon Valley.

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: barckley.sumner@unitetheunion.org

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.