Heathrow expansion decision highlights jobs paradox – PCS union comment
The PCS union, which has workers at Heathrow, has commented on the Supreme Court decision, and on the future of airport workers. They say that contrary to the assumption from some quarters that this means a jobs bonanza for workers, PCS remains sceptical about the real benefit for our members. As a union committed to protecting and supporting their workers, they have had to fight against jobs being reduced – even before Covid – by automation of roles, and new grading structures. Now this has been happening even faster, as cost cutting steps are taken in response to the pandemic. PCS is trying to save as many jobs as possible. But with the need for the UK, and the aviation sector, to decarbonise, some job losses are inevitable. There need to be plans to retrain workers, and find alternative employment, in order to protect the continued livelihoods of workers. It is now generally accepted that combatting climate change is the richest source of future employment, and plans to do so need to be implemented urgently. While air travel demand may return in several years time, jobs need to be found now. While it is a remote possibility Heathrow would build a 3rd runway many years ahead, that does not provide employment for its workers now. Alternatives need to sought for them – now.
Heathrow expansion decision highlights jobs paradox
16 Dec 2020 (From the PCS Union)
The Supreme Court has today (16 December) ruled in favour of the Heathrow Airport Limited appeal against the previous decision that ruled the third runway illegal, which means that expansion plans for the airport are back on the agenda.
Contrary to the assumption from some quarters that this means a jobs bonanza for workers, PCS – which has a national policy of opposition to the runway on environmental grounds – remains sceptical about the real benefit for our members.
As a union committed to protecting and supporting our workers in struggle, aviation group representatives have worked incredibly hard to defend our members against the attacks of the employer, be it automation of roles, new grading structures or attempted de-recognition, and most recently of course the opportunistic cost cutting steps taken in response to the pandemic.
With all this in mind, we find it deeply ironic that any union would welcome a court ruling that enables the employer to continue on that same path unabated. Instead we would point to a number of important issues:
1. Our members jobs are at risk as numbers have been cut, which has led trade unions to jointly lobby the government for both job protection until the current downturn is reversed, and for retraining and redeployment into other, decarbonising, jobs in the knowledge that meeting the U.K. climate targets will restrict the amount of aviation expansion permissible.
2. While many current jobs in aviation will continue to be needed, and we fight to protect those, many will either transform (retraining) or will disappear (redeployment), so those alternative employment plans are absolutely essential to protect the continued livelihoods of workers. It is now generally accepted that combatting climate change is the richest source of future employment, and plans to do so need to be implemented urgently.
3. With the advent of the pandemic, the traffic is not even there to require a further runway in the short to medium term. Building the runway, if it does go ahead, will take years, especially if it is not implemented until, for the employer, it becomes economically viable to do so. What are our members supposed to be doing in the meantime? In no way does this decision link to the urgent job requirements of beleaguered workers.
We urge our members, and those at other unions whose leaderships may have expressed support for this Supreme Court decision, to think about their current and imminent circumstances and where their true interests lie given the world we live in: to support an employer whose relentless pursuit of profit disadvantages our members and helps to put the planet, and our futures, at risk; or – as all unions have collaborated to relay to the government (Crisis Support in Aviation and the Right to Retrain) – to start the programme of action which all acknowledge is desperately needed to secure our social, economic and environmental future.
See earlier, similar ideas expressed for airport workers
Overturn airport jobs crisis with a Green New Deal for Gatwick
There is great concern around many airports, about the number of people who have lost their jobs, or will lose them in coming months. A new report by 3 organisations, the PCS trade union, Green New Deal UK, and the Green House Think Tank shows how new jobs could be created in the Gatwick area, for those now unemployed. Their analysis indicates that around 16,000 “green” jobs could be created around Gatwick if an ambitious job creation strategy was adopted. And they calculate that the cost would be comparable to the amount of APD that Gatwick air passengers might pay in 2021 – around £329 million (calculated as the proportion of all UK air passengers that go via Gatwick – about 15.6% in 2019). This number has been chosen, as the airlines (through Airlines UK) have been lobbying to have APD suspended for a year in 2021; if that happened, it might mean a loss to the Treasury of around £2.1 billion. The £329 million (approx) would be able to fund perhaps x13 as many “green” jobs (such as building retrofits, low-energy transport, restoring nature, and social care) as would be secured in the aviation sector. And these jobs would help avoid the excessive vulnerability of the Gatwick area of being too dependent on aviation.