Up to 124,000 aviation industry jobs could be lost, report warns

Up to 124,000 jobs in the aviation industry could be lost unless the Government offers help to stem the flow of cuts, a new report warns.

A workers’ bailout is needed, in line with the current job retention scheme, with support for staff to be retrained from jobs seen as vulnerable due to the impacts of the Covid-19 crisis, automation, and the need to reduce carbon emissions, ministers were told.

At least 70,000 jobs are at risk in the industry and its supply chains over the next two to three months, according to analysis from the New Economics Foundation (NEF), the TUC, aviation unions and climate action charity Possible.

The figure is on par with the huge scale of job losses in the coal industry in 1980-81, said the report.

Of the 70,000 jobs immediately at risk, 39,000 are in aviation, while the remaining number are likely to be lost in the supply chain, although the figures are unlikely to reflect the full extent of job losses which could unfold by the end of the financial year, it was warned.

Employment in the aviation sector is unlikely to return to pre-crisis levels because of automation, technological development and service cutbacks, said the report.

Alex Chapman, of the New Economics Foundation, said: “The aviation industry faces job losses on a par with the worst years of the UK coal industry decline in the 1980s.

“We must take lessons from that period, and the financial crisis in 07/08 and do a better job of protecting the wellbeing of workers and communities.

“There are rock solid social and economic reasons for preventing the spike in unemployment which is being threatened by aviation bosses, and instead investing heavily in retraining and upskilling aviation workers to prepare them for a new normal, and the rapid decarbonisation of the UK economy.”

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said: “Aviation is a critical part of our economic infrastructure and it supports tens of thousands of good jobs.

“The sector has already been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and the implementation of the quarantine period is a further blow.

“We cannot consign these workers to the despair of unemployment.

“Aviation needs immediate support and not just to protect the incomes of billionaire airline owners.

“Government must act now to protect workers’ jobs and livelihoods, to support the longer-term viability of the sector and to facilitate a just transition to lower-carbon operations.”

Alethea Warrington, campaigner at Possible, said: “At this time of crisis, we need to protect what really matters, people and the planet, not corporate profits.

“The terrible impacts of Covid-19 show that we need to change course to avoid worsening the storms of tomorrow.

“Airlines and airports must not be allowed to use public money to jeopardise the UK’s targets to avoid catastrophic levels of damage to the climate.”