The aviation industry is critical to the UK economy, but workers should not be laid off in such large numbers by those at the top, who themselves have reaped the rewards from the hard work of their staff. Unlike the more sensible strategy they adopted in Spain, British Airways are to cut 12,000 jobs in the UK, while taking taxpayer funding for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). This is an abuse! For BA to then go even further by proposing changes to terms and conditions on a “fire and rehire” basis is totally unacceptable.
The Government’s priority should be to prevent additional unnecessary unemployment by abandoning the one-size-fits-all approach to the removal of the CJRS. It has said the scheme “was not designed for taxpayers to fund the wages of employees only for those companies to put the same staff on notice of redundancy during the furlough period”.
However, I believe more could have been done to actively bring the unions and airlines together around the table.
Back in March, the Chancellor advised he would discuss a potential support package specifically for airlines and airports with the Transport Secretary, but we are still waiting. I have been calling for an aviation sector deal for months and it is essential that we see urgency, clarity and the support package the Chancellor referred to.
I firmly believe any Government support package must ensure that jobs and staff salaries are protected with a clear commitment to workers rights. Such packages should also include commitments to tackling climate change, that any company in receipt of money must ensure their tax base is in the UK, and that no dividends should be paid until the company is proven to be commercially viable.
The Government has said it wants to ensure the slots allocation process encourages competition and provides connectivity. While aspects of legacy slots are subject to EU rules and a future trade deal, I have believed for some time that this needs to be looked at. The Competition and Markets Authority has also said previously that it is concerned about the practice. The Prime Minister now needs to personally intervene and make it clear that actions such as those at BA cannot be allowed to stand without consequences for landing slots.