UK cross-party group to lobby for Covid funds in areas that depend on airports

Cllr Steve Curran, the Labour leader of Hounslow council and Henry Smith, the Conservative MP for Crawley, have written an Opinion piece in the Guardian about the sorry state of their areas – with Heathrow and Gatwick areas badly hit by the collapse in demand for air travel.  They say they “have the awful distinction of heading the national league tables for furloughed and unemployed workers. …There’s little prospect of aviation returning to anything like its previous levels, not even with the advent of a vaccine, not in the short term. The damage may well prove to be permanent … In Hounslow …and Crawley … 40% of our workforces were being supported by the state at the end of the summer. This number is likely to worsen. It is similar for parts of Birmingham, Essex, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Teesside, Newcastle and Glasgow and the other districts where concentrations of airport workers live.” They say it is not only the air crews and pilots but all the support workers. There will be an Aviation Communities Summit on Tuesday 24 November – to assess the economic and social harm, and to ask the government to establish an aviation communities fund to meet the immediate and longer-term needs.
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UK cross-party group to lobby for Covid funds in areas that depend on airports

Leaders around Gatwick and Heathrow request ‘aviation communities fund’ to help local workers

‘Our communities around Britain’s airports are being devastated’

By Simon Goodley (The Guardian)

Sun 22 Nov 2020

A cross-party group of national and local politicians will this week lobby the government for emergency funds to tackle the impact of Covid-19 on workers whose livelihoods rely on airports.

The aviation industry has been identified as one of the business sectors hardest hit by the pandemic – costing the local economy of Hounslow, which neighbours Heathrow airport, a total of £1bn over three years, a study commissioned by the local council suggests.

Steve Curran, the Labour leader of Hounslow council, and Henry Smith, the Conservative MP for Crawley, which includes Gatwick airport, said  [see their opinion piece below] their two constituencies “have the awful distinction of heading the national league tables for numbers furloughed and unemployed” and that “at the end of the summer 40% of our workforces were being supported by the state, [with] this number … likely to worsen.”

In an opinion piece shared with the Guardian, the politicians said: “In all, some 733,000 jobs in, and connected to, Britain’s international and regional airports, are at risk from a prolonged downturn in air traffic.

“Little mention is made of the support workers, among them the cleaners, mechanics, attendants, drivers, waiters, kitchen staff, who toil behind the scenes … Many of these jobs are low-skilled and pay low wages. Many of those who do them are from the younger and older age groups of the working population; many too, are from BAME communities. They’re likely to have difficulty in finding alternative suitable employment.”

Representatives of Hounslow and Crawley, plus other affected areas around UK airports, said they will meet on Tuesday “to assess the economic and social harm”, as well as to ask the government to establish an “aviation communities fund” to meet the immediate and longer-term needs of workers reliant on airports.

In July, Hounslow commissioned a study by the forecasting group Oxford Economics, which stated that 11,000 of the borough’s residents work in jobs directly linked to Heathrow out of a total workforce of about 150,000.

The research paper added that up to 43,000 jobs were associated with the airport’s “catalytic impact”.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/nov/22/uk-cross-party-group-to-lobby-for-covid-funds-in-areas-that-depend-on-airports

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Our communities around Britain’s airports are being devastated

Guardian – Opinion

22.11.2020

By Cllr Steve Curran (Hounslow, Heathrow)  and Henry Smith MP (Gatwick)

• Cllr Steve Curran is the Labour leader of Hounslow council and

Henry Smith is the Conservative MP for Crawley

We have the awful distinction of heading the national league tables for furloughed and unemployed workers

UK cross-party group to lobby for Covid funds in areas that depend on airports

The residential areas around Heathrow, Gatwick and other UK airports have been hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Everywhere in Britain the financial and social impact of Covid-19 is being felt. Up and down the land, whole industries have been affected and businesses, large and small, have been forced to close.

Hardest hit, though, have been the communities located around airports – those areas that provide the workers for their local airport, that rely on the terminals, the hangars and the economy that has grown up around it, for jobs and prosperity. At a stroke, with the onset of the pandemic and the collapse worldwide in air travel, that vital connection has been severely reduced.

Since then, it’s worsened. There’s little prospect of aviation returning to anything like its previous levels, not even with the advent of a vaccine, not in the short term. The damage may well prove to be permanent.

The immediate effects have been devastating. Our two communities, Hounslow in west London and Crawley in Sussex, have the awful distinction of heading the national league tables for numbers of furloughed and unemployed workers.

In Hounslow, next to Heathrow, and Crawley near Gatwick, 40% of our workforces were being supported by the state at the end of the summer. This number is likely to worsen. It is similar for parts of Birmingham, Essex, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Teesside, Newcastle and Glasgow and the other districts where concentrations of airport workers live.

Each day brings news of further aviation redundancies and closures. In all, 733,000 jobs in, and connected to, Britain’s international and regional airports, are at risk from a prolonged downturn in air traffic.

Much attention, naturally, is devoted to the airlines and air crews, and the retail brands whose revenues have been decimated. What’s often forgotten is the ancillary staff. Little mention is made of the support workers, among them the cleaners, mechanics, attendants, drivers, waiters and kitchen staff, who toil behind the scenes serving the airlines, caterers, hangars, stores, bars, restaurants, hotels, lounges and transport providers that make up a modern airport.

And not just them, but the myriad small, medium and large enterprises that develop around an airport and count on it for business. In normal times, they all help sustain the local economy.

Many of these jobs are low-skilled and pay low wages. Many of those who do them are from the younger and older age groups of the working population. Many too, are from BAME communities. They’re likely to have difficulty in finding suitable alternative employment.

Hounslow commissioned a study from Oxford Economics on the cost to its economy from Heathrow’s slump. Its experts put the total at £1bn. That bill will be repeated, pro rata, at the other reeling aviation communities.

It’s not just a financial loss – the air travel downturn is going to be reflected in increased social, health and mental health problems, and in crime. Hounslow has witnessed a 200% rise in domestic violence cases since the outbreak began. These, too, are places that are feeling the widespread ravages of Covid – their high streets are haemorrhaging, the same as elsewhere in Britain.

This aviation crisis is not going to end immediately – air travel, the industry leaders are predicting, is not facing a quick bounce-back. Passenger volumes aren’t expected to return to their 2019 levels until 2023 at the earliest, while air freight is likely to take longer.

These communities were facing uncertainty even before the advent of coronavirus. Environmental concerns were putting the brakes on airport expansion and future employment prospects.

This is why, from Hounslow and Crawley, we’re coming together with the other affected areas to hold the first Aviation Communities Summit on Tuesday 24 November – to assess the economic and social harm, and to ask the government to establish an aviation communities fund to meet the immediate and longer-term needs. It is cross-party, non-political. At stake is the future wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of people.

We must provide people with the skills so they can seek new opportunities. The different schemes aimed at apprenticeships and providing adult education programmes should, in the light of this unfolding disaster, be revisited, possibly consolidated and be made more relevant to future needs.

The infrastructure provision in these areas should be reassessed and if required, rebalanced, to reflect the shifting economic landscape. We must focus on attracting new business, new investment, that’s not so dependent on aviation.

None of this, we know, will be cheap. We are considering, therefore, exploring a funding mechanism, once air travel has recovered, that can be used to benefit communities in a major levelling-up initiative.

These and other positive, proactive suggestions are what we – Britain’s communities that depend so much on our airports – would like to explore, starting with the unprecedented summit with the government and our stakeholders.

• Cllr Steve Curran is the Labour leader of Hounslow council and Henry Smith is the Conservative MP for Crawley

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/nov/22/our-communities-around-britains-airports-are-being-devastated

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See earlier:

Gatwick could lose 600 jobs, and it could take 4-5 years for passengers to return to 2019 levels

Gawick plans to cut a quarter of its workforce due to the impact of coronavirus. So about 600 jobs could be lost following an 80% reduction in the 2019 number of passengers in August. It only has the North Terminal working.  CEO Stewart Wingate said the cuts were a result of the “devastating impacts” coronavirus had on the airline and travel industries.  In March, Gatwick announced 200 jobs would be lost, and it later took out a £300m bank loan. With the collapse in passenger numbers, the company said it was looking to further reduce costs. About 75% of staff are currently on the government’s furlough scheme, which is due to end in October. The DfT says: “If people need financial support quickly they may be able to claim Universal Credit and new style Jobseekers Allowance.”  Many staff belong to the union, Unite, which will fight to minimise redundancies.  The airport has said it will take “four to five years” for passenger numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels. Its revenue fell by 61% in the half year, January to June, compared to 2019. While Covid remains a very real issue, and levels are slowly rising in many countries, air passengers have no certainty about from which countries they would need to quarantine themselves for 14 days, on their return.

Click here to view full story…

Heathrow catering company plans to make 1,068 workers redundant – there’s not enough demand for airline meals

The Heathrow catering company DO & CO is planning to make 1,068 workers redundant, as there is not enough work for them – with so few flights.  The Austrian-owned company’s biggest customer is British Airways, with a 10 year BA contract. The total in the company to have lost their jobs will be 1,377, including voluntary redundancies, since the coronavirus pandemic started in March.  Just 507 staff will be left. DO & CO has decided not to use the furlough scheme, which would have seen staff be paid 80% of their wages until at least March 2021. The Unite trade union said DO & CO was the only Heathrow catering company not to engage constructively with the union over furlough. It wants talks and the company not to agree to make the staff redundant before Christmas.  Unite says:  “We are naming and shaming DO &CO as an example of corporate callousness … and pointing out the indirect reputational damage to British Airways…”   If there is going to be a contraction of the aviation sector, with fewer people flying than in 2019 for several years to come, how are staff to continue to be employed, in a company that has no work for them? It is likely that air travel demand will never return to its 2019 level. It shows how vulnerable an area is if too dependent on an airport.

Click here to view full story…

Heathrow area risks fate of 1980s mining towns, says airport boss – area too dependent on the airport

Perhaps even more than other airports like Gatwick and Luton, a large part of the economy around Heathrow has become over-dependent on the airport. Now the CEO of Heathrow, John Holland-Kaye has said boroughs like Hounslow risk becoming like “a mining town in the 1980s” with the collapse in air traffic putting tens of thousands of jobs at risk. Many more people work in businesses associated with Heathrow, than directly for the airport itself.  In August, Heathrow had around 1.4 million passengers, which is less than 20% of its “normal” amount.  People are not flying for leisure, due to the risk of Covid itself, or the need to quarantine. There are few business trips, as they are being replaced by Zoom etc.  Many in the aviation sector do not think levels of flying will return to their 2019 levels for 2-3 years, or more – if ever.  Heathrow had losses of £1.1bn in the first half of 2020. Recently Heathrow issued formal section 188 notices, allowing it to potentially fire and rehire some 4,700 employees, after months of negotiations with unions representing its directly employed ground staff failed to produce an agreement. Section 188 means the airport can bypass negotiations after a 45-day period has elapsed. There might overall be 25,000 Heathrow-related job losses.

Click here to view full story…