London City Airport accused of poor treatment of its workforce
- Thursday 12 November 2020
Management at City airport has been accused of failing to treat its workers fairly, after a litany of decidedly dubious employment practices were uncovered by Unite, the UK’s principal aviation union.
Litany of concerns
The workforce has been experiencing issues with the way airport managers have been applying and using the government's job retention scheme (JRS) since the beginning of the pandemic in March.
First, they did not apply the scheme correctly and it was only as a result of workers issuing a collective grievance and the threat of legal action by Unite that the matter was resolved.
Major job losses
Then, in September, London City Airport announced a huge restructuring/redundancy programme which will result in around half of the airport’s 700 plus employees losing their jobs.
Unite is increasingly concerned that the airport is not using a fair and transparent matrix to make workers redundant. Longstanding employees report that ‘phantom’ disciplinary issues have been raised against them, of which they had previously no knowledge, resulting in them being more likely to be selected for redundancy.
Members further report a belief that long-term employees and those that are union members are more likely to be selected for redundancy. Unite has requested a seat at the consultation table but this was refused by the airport management, as the union is not currently formally recognised.
Despite the government extending the JRS until next spring, when the outlook for the aviation sector may be looking more positive, City airport is refusing to halt the redundancy programme.
And, in a decidedly sinister move, Unite has learnt that management is trying to use the JRS to prevent members pursuing potential employment claims against the airport. Workers are informed they will be made redundant but are then told that their contract will be extended (under furlough) for a few extra weeks provided they sign a settlement agreement that the worker won’t take an employment case to court.
Now, in a further development Unite, has discovered that City airport is incorrectly paying notice pay to the workers who are being made redundant, resulting in them being short changed.
Workers treated with contempt
Unite regional officer Mercedes Sanchez said: “Workers at city airport are being treated with disdain and contempt by the company’s management.
“The predominately low paid workers are particularly financially vulnerable as many have been surviving on furlough for months and the airport appears to be preying on workers' financial concerns.
“The job retention scheme was designed to preserve jobs and allegations that City airport is using it to insulate themselves against future legal challenges, is entirely reprehensible and must be fully investigated by the appropriate authorities.
“Unite has sought to get answers and resolve these matters directly with the company but has constantly been refused access to any consultation meetings.
“It is simply intolerable that workers do not know on what basis redundancies are being made. Without a transparent system it is inevitable that workers will feel they have been unfairly treated.
“Unite will fully support its members at City airport throughout this process and if they have been mistreated will fully consider all legal options to defend their rights.”
Notes to editors:
For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.