Gatwick Airport
Gatwick Airport

Thousands of workers across the country are facing a cliff-edge when furlough ends in three days’ time – despite the fact the government promised a sector support deal more than 18 months ago.

Figures show 77,000 workers in the South East region are employed in the aviation sector (directly and supply chain), large numbers of whom have been furloughed as the sector struggles with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Around 81,000 workers across the country face the risk of losing their jobs after September 30 – including a possible 13,000 in the South East region. The vast majority of these jobs will be associated with Gatwick Airport in Crawley, which has been the hardest hit airport in Europe.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak promised a financial support package for aviation on March 17, 2020 – but 18 months later, it has failed to materialise.

Crawley is already among the top 10 places with the highest share of people claiming unemployment related benefits.

And according to Airlines UK, which represents UK registered airlines, more than 30,000 job losses have been announced by just their members across the UK since the start of the pandemic. Beforehand, more than a quarter of all constituencies had more than 1,000 people employed in aviation – the third largest aviation network in the world.

Broader estimates by Unite the union put redundancies in the UK aviation and aerospace sector at 61,973 up to March 2021, excluding those formerly employed in retail at airports and induced employment across the economy.

Pre-pandemic, in 2019, in Boris Johnson’s own constituency there were 3,356 people working in aviation – 8.2% of all the people employed in Uxbridge and South Ruislip. And in Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ constituency of Welwyn Hatfield – not in close proximity to an airport or aerospace industry – 930 people still relied on the sector for employment.

Peter Lamb, Leader of Borough Council, said:

“For the first time in the town’s history, Crawley is facing mass-unemployment, the direct result of the Conservatives’ failure to protect jobs in aviation and the communities dependant upon them. The Government has been repeatedly warned for many months of the consequences of their decisions, but for all their reassurances, thousands of hard-working families in my community are now facing years of hardship.”

Jim McMahon MP, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, said:

“It should be a source of shame for ministers that they have allowed thousands of jobs to be lost in the aviation sector across the country when they promised support – particularly when so many are now staring down the barrel of Boris Johnson’s tax hikes and cuts to Universal Credit.

“Empty words, long delays and broken promises are the default setting for this Government – with working people paying the price over and over again.

“Labour has consistently called for a sectoral deal that supports the whole aviation industry including securing jobs and protecting the supply chain, while continuing to press for higher environmental standards.”

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