Ministers have come under fire after council-owned Manchester Airports Group (MAG) announced plans for nearly 900 job losses, citing the end of the Government’s furlough scheme.
MAG, which is the UK’s largest airport group, said it will begin discussions with unions on ‘proposals to reduce employee costs in response to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic’.
The proposals would see the loss of 465 roles at Manchester Airport, 376 roles at London Stansted Airport and 51 roles at East Midlands Airport, ‘along with adjustments to roles, roster patterns and other employment measures’.
The group said the move follows a 90% reduction in demand for travel through its airports since March, compared with the previous year, with current monthly demand still 75% below normal levels.
CEO Charlie Cornish said: ‘By now, we would have hoped to see a strong and sustained recovery in demand. Unfortunately, the resurgence of the virus across Europe and the reintroduction of travel restrictions have meant this has not happened.
‘With uncertainty about when a vaccine will be widely available, we need to be realistic about when demand is likely to recover.’
He added: ‘The end of the Job Retention Scheme means that we have to consider the number of roles that we can sustain at our airports.’
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham added the issue to his list of criticisms of the Government’s handling of the pandemic. He wrote on Twitter: ‘The Government says these jobs are “not viable”. I say that they are. Without an extension to the main furlough scheme, the damage to the economy of the North will be deep and lasting.’
Press reports on Friday morning (9 October) suggested that chancellor Rishi Sunak was poised to introduce local furlough schemes in areas such as Manchester that have large numbers of positive COVID-19 tests.
Commenting on proposed job cuts at Stansted, Unite regional officer Mark Barter said: ‘These job losses are an inevitable consequence of the Government’s failure to provide sector specific support to the aviation industry, the sector which has been most heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘Once Covid-19 is under control, confidence will return to the industry and flights will increase. It is a total failure of government to not be assisting the industry and its workforce through this crisis in order to ensure it can quickly recover when the virus abates.
‘The chancellor first promised sector support in March. An aviation recovery plan was promised last month. Nothing has materialised and job losses are increasing by the day.’
MAG is 35.5% owned by Manchester City Council, with a 29% stake held by the nine other Greater Manchester local authorities and the remaining 35.5% privately owned.