Trade Unions sceptical about extravagant jobs claims for a Heathrow 3rd runway
The Trade Union movement appears split on the issue of Heathrow expansion, following a fringe meeting (organised by the No 3rd Runway Coalition and the PCS) held at the Trade Union Congress in Manchester. Unions such as Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) spoke at a fringe meeting on the issue of transport, climate and jobs, highlighting their continued opposition to a 3rd Heathrow runway, despite other trade unions supporting the hugely environmentally damaging project. Chris Baugh (Assistant General Secretary, PCS), said though workers would not support the agenda to transition away from fossil fuels if their jobs were put in jeopardy, claims of large numbers of high quality jobs were hard to believe. Manuel Cortes (General Secretary, TSSA), raised concerns that the transport sector was heading backwards in addressing the challenge posed by climate change, while the UK urgently needs to address the crisis of CO2 emissions. Paul Beckford of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said the role played by trade unions in helping the transition to a low carbon economy will be crucial. Unions have to be clear about the reality of future jobs, generated by the runway.
TRADE UNIONS SCEPTICAL OVER HEATHROW EXPANSION
12.9.2018 (No 3rd Runway Coalition)
The Trade Union movement appears split on the issue of Heathrow expansion, following a fringe meeting held at the Trade Union Congress in Manchester this week.
Unions such as Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) spoke at a fringe meeting on transport, climate and jobs, highlighting their continued opposition to a third runway at Heathrow airport, despite other trade unions supporting the environmentally damaging project.
Chris Baugh, Assistant General Secretary, PCS, highlighted the journey his union had taken in engaging with members who are employed in aviation. He said workers would not support the agenda to transition away from fossil fuels if their jobs were put in jeopardy. However, by engaging with members and sharing independent research such as that of Professor Roger Seifert that dismantled claims about the number and quality of jobs that expansion at Heathrow will deliver then workers could understand the position of opposition adopted. https://www.pcs.org.uk/aviation-group/latest-news/heathrow-climate-and-trade-unions
Manuel Cortes, General Secretary, TSSA, raised concerns that the transport sector was heading backwards in addressing the challenge posed by climate change, stating that the need for action was urgent as the country faces a national emergency in reducing emissions. He urged the state and trade unions to take an active role in delivering the solutions. He also called for an integrated transport policy that established links to energy policy to help deliver a coordinated approach to delivering a low carbon economy.
The meeting organised by the No Third Runway Coalition alongside PCS Union involved a discussion on the importance of trade unions in delivering the transition to a low carbon economy. A motion supporting the Just Transition was passed at Congress on Wednesday.
Paul Beckford of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said:
“The role played by trade unions in helping the transition to a low carbon economy will be crucial. It is clear that workers must be informed about the challenges and opportunities presented by this transition. A programme of robust engagement is vital to ensure that workers don’t feel that the choice being presented is one between their jobs and the environment.”
“The claims made by industry and government about the number and quality of jobs that will be delivered by expansion at Heathrow are highly questionable. The opposition to expansion by trade unions like PCS and the TSSA is extremely welcome and demonstrates that the movement remain rightly sceptical about the alleged economic benefits and concerned about the environment damage that would be caused.”
For more information, contact:
- Rob Barnstone, 07806947050, Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org
The Report’s Executive Summary says:
Climate change is a matter of deep concern to all PCS members including those in the Aviation Group. There is broad consensus around the fact that climate change is primarily driven by human activity. In the UK, the fastest growing share of climate emissions over the last 20 years has been due to the growth in transport, and most particularly aviation emissions, although such changes are driven in turn by an increasing reliance on a globalised model of production.
In aviation, although the deregulation-driven expansion of the low cost carriers has driven a dramatic expansion in passenger and flight numbers, particularly in relation to short haul leisure flights in Europe, long haul flights (including a high proportion of business flights) make up a larger proportion of the UK’s climate impact – and one which is growing even faster, and has been less affected by the economic downturn.
To date, the only government policy which has been aimed directly at this sector is the extension of Air Passenger Duty to business flights.
The current direction of policy is driven primarily by capacity constraints (in particular, a shortage of runway landing slots in the main hub airport, Heathrow). This policy is the product of a free market approach, and its interplay with local political concerns (for example, around aircraft noise) and industry concerns.
Such an approach is unlikely to deliver necessary reductions to aviation emissions in a timeframe that would (alongside other measures, domestically and internationally) sufficiently protect the planet from devastating climate impacts. If there is no shift in direction, exponentially more costly and disruptive measures will become necessary a few years from now. In the case of aviation over-reliance on capacity constraints to reduce aviation expansion, also has environmental dis-benefits, for example, through increased burning of fuel as airplanes are ‘stacked’ whilst waiting for scarce landing slots.
A dual hub approach to airport capacity, could be a way of better using the existing capacity, balancing the need for a realistic but not excessive assessment of aviation growth and its position in the economy, alongside other policies. However, the Government’s policy of breaking up the airport operators, signi cantly hinders the likelihood of the airport operators working co-operatively together to manage capacity issues in a way that best balances environmental and economic concerns, due to competition issues.
Similarly, the fragmented and largely privatised nature of wider public transport provision hinders moves towards an integrated transport policy that could encourage shifts towards more sustainable transport and the protection of high quality jobs within the sector. It is a fundamental paradox of the market-led approach to aviation that the EU and its member states are pressing the case for the Single European Sky while at the same time deregulating the industry in the name of increasing competition. PCS believes that this paradox is unsustainable and will only impede efforts to improve the environmental impact of the industry.
Other policy measures will also need to be considered, both domestically and internationally. By re-focusing aviation policy towards planning for sustainability, both the PCS and the UK will also be in a stronger position to in uence international aviation policy.
The principle financial measures currently in place to manage aviation demand, Air Passenger Duty (in the UK) and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (internationally), are under sustained attack from the industry. The defence of such policies could be strengthened by a commitment to using the revenues for investment in green transport jobs, which would also have significant benefits for local infrastructure, commuters, and quality of life, which would be in line with PCS policy.
Operationally there is significant scope for increased air traffic control measures, and better ground level management, to reduce fuel wastage and therefore climate change emissions. There is also significant scope for improved technology, most notably larger planes, to have similar benefits. However neither such policies will be driven sufficiently with the current free market based approach. Greater regulation, international co-operation and indeed public ownership, are vitally important if the aviation industry – and the transport sector more widely – is to become more environmentally sustainable.
The current focus and direction of the aviation industry, in particular air traffic control and airport ownership, is not conducive to activities aimed at improving the environment. A publicly owned ATC industry is key to placing a higher value on environmental as well as safety issues, and achieving vital environmental improvements. PCS will be in a strong position to achieve such vital but fundamental shifts in policy, if it can grow its influence in the sector by organising on the basis of a realistic assessment of the industry and its challenges, something this report aims to set out.