Unite, the principal aviation union, has warned that the announcement today (Wednesday 24 June) of ‘devastating’ job losses by baggage handler Swissport will be a further blow to the already stricken South West’s aviation sector. Swissport is planning to halve its existing workforce.
Unite represents Swissport workers at Bristol and Jersey airports. The company has not yet revealed where the proposed 4,556 job losses will fall, creating much anxiety among the entire workforce.
The latest announcement raises fresh concerns about the future of the region’s airports (Bournemouth, Bristol, Exeter, Jersey and Newquay). The sector has been hit hard as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, Unite says that the sector’s dire situation is being exacerbated by the UK government’s failure to bring forward the promised bespoke support package for the sector to support airlines and airports.
The government first promised support for the sector over three months ago, on March 17th, but nothing has been forthcoming.
An immediate priority, according to Unite, has to be an extension of the government’s job retention scheme for sectors such as aviation to preserve jobs, giving them support and retaining the infrastructure while the industry works to recover from the pandemic
Unite regional secretary for the South West Steve Preddy said: “The Swissport jobs announcement is another blow for the stricken South West aviation sector.
“Workers at Swissport will not be alone in fearing for their jobs today; all workers in the sector are becoming increasingly fearful for their futures.
“The government has a duty to bring forward the promised support package for the sector. If it fails to do so or if there is a further delay then the future of the region’s airports will be further thrown into doubt.
“Aviation is essential to the regional connectivity of the South West. The people of the South West need to fly for work and business as well as pleasure.
“The government has said regional connectivity is a political priority but the South West have seen no evidence of this.
“We urge the government not to waste one more moment – signal now that help is on the way. Without this, we fear the worst for our workers’ jobs and our region’s economy.”
Unite has produced a blueprint of how the government should intervene across the entire aviation sector including airlines and airports to protect the jobs and conditions of workers. Such loans would come with strict strings attached regarding executive pay, corporate governance and requiring stringent environmental standards to be adopted to radically reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.