Airline staff working at Leeds Bradford Airport need ‘sustainable jobs’ claim campaigners

Campaigners in Leeds have called on authorities in the region to help people find jobs outside the aviation industry, following redundancies announced by major airline and baggage handling companies.

Wednesday, 1st July 2020, 5:23 pm

The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) has written to members of Parliament asking to help provide work to those who have lost their jobs with both Swissport and Jet2, who recently announced hundreds of redundancies due to the Covid-19 pandemic’s effects on the aviation industry.

While the companies did not confirm how many of these job losses would directly affect Leeds Bradford Airport, GALBA claimed this showed the aviation industry had reduced in size, and that plans to expand Leeds Bradford Airport to accommodate more flights was now unrealistic.

The airport responded by claiming that although the recent loss of jobs was unfortunate, it had nothing to do with the future sustainability of the industry.

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Jobs at Leeds Bradford Airport could be unsustainable due to the decline in the airline industry following Covid, claim campaigners.

Chris Foren, chairman of GALBA, said: “It’s obvious that the Covid crisis has changed the way people travel and do business.

“So let’s help people working at the airport and Jet2 move into safe and sustainable jobs – jobs that give them a decent wage and tackle climate change at the same time.”

He went on to list examples of sustainable work, such as “super-insulating” homes, building flood defences and make cycling and walking safer for people.

Mr Foren added: “GALBA has said all along that LBA’s claims about job creation are not credible. Sadly, these redundancies show that we’re right.

“Now is the time to help people switch into jobs with a future, for the future.”

A spokesperson for Leeds Bradford Airport responded: “We are deeply saddened by the recent loss of livelihoods in the aviation sector, and we hope that as we come through the period of recovery from the pandemic that we can retain many of these highly skilled and highly valued professionals in the industry.

“Like many other impacted industries across the UK economy, aviation has faced challenges over the last few months, but it is wrong to link losses of jobs in unprecedented economic times to the sustainability agenda, just as it would be wrong to do this with other sectors that have been impacted by the global pandemic.

“To say that jobs in aviation are unsustainable is misleading. On the contrary, the sector has jointly committed to becoming net zero by 2050 and there are advances in technologies and fuels on the horizon.

“We know we have work to do to get there, but the long-term future for sustainable aviation, and the jobs that it will create and sustain, is positive.”

Flights company Jet2, which is based in Leeds, said it regretted proposed redundancies, but added it had every confidence it would “bounce back” from the current slowdown in the industry.

A spokesperson said: “The implications related to the Coronavirus crisis have been complicated, with changes on an almost daily basis. Additionally, we are still faced with uncertainty in relation to lockdown and its continued challenges.

“As a result, we have had to reassess and reduce our flying programme for the remainder of 2020 and for 2021. Sadly, the overall effect of these reductions has been the need to propose a number of colleague redundancies across our business. We cannot say how much we regret these proposed redundancies and we will be consulting with appropriate representatives of the affected Colleagues in order to ensure that all options and issues are fully considered.

“Whilst we have every confidence that we will bounce back from the unprecedented demands currently placed on the company, we sadly do have to make difficult decisions in the current climate.”

However, baggage handling company Swissport warned of a “long period of uncertainty” in the industry, and a “new reality” in the way people travel.

A spokesperson for the company said: “Our business is fundamentally reliant on a high volume of flights taking place – whether for cargo, ground handling or lounge operations. When aircraft aren’t flying our source of revenue evaporates.

“UK and Ireland based airlines have already announced significant job losses and the AOA have said analysis of their members suggested up to 20,000 jobs were at risk. The industry-wide impact is clear.

“The unfortunate fact is that there simply aren’t enough aircraft flying for our business to continue running as it did before the Covid-19 outbreak, and there won’t be again for some time to come.

“We are facing a long period of uncertainty and reduced flight numbers across the country, along with significant changes taking place to the way people travel and the way goods move around the world and we must adapt to this new reality.”

Plans submitted earlier this year by Leeds Bradford Airport claimed a ‘state of the art’ terminal would include three main floors with improved vehicle access. It would also be closer to a proposed parkway rail station, announced by Leeds City Council last year.

The airport hopes for work to start on construction of the site by the end of this year, and for the new terminal to be up and running by 2023.

The application adds the current terminal is ‘dated’ and ‘inefficient’ and that the airport could lose passengers to nearby Manchester Airport unless the improvements are approved.