More than 400 jobs at Manchester Airport are at risk as bosses prepare for redundancies amid a resurgence of the virus across Europe.
In a tough blow to the work force and the wider Greater Manchester community which relies on the hub, the proposals could mean the loss of 465 jobs at Manchester Airport, with 376 roles at London Stansted and 51 positions at East Midlands also under threat.
It means a total of 892 jobs are at risk.
Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which operates all three airports – and whose profits are shared by the 10 Greater Manchester councils – has also warned of ‘adjustments’ to roles, roster patterns and ‘other employment measures’ as it attempts to deal with the pandemic’s devastating impact on travel habits.
In a statement, Manchester Airport said the recent spike in the virus, combined with ‘an absence of dedicated support for the sector’ and a lack of testing for UK passengers, had undermined passenger confidence in air travel for the next year.
Overall passenger demand, they said, was not expected to recover before 2023-24.
Those to be made redundant at Manchester, which has around 3,500 employees, include security officers, engineers, customer service staff, bus drivers and car park attendants.
It follows a huge decline in passengers amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis – from 30.3m between April and August 2019, to 2.8m in the same period this year.
Unite – the main aviation union – have also blamed the job losses on the government’s failure to provide support to the sector.
Union bosses have said they will immediately begin negotiating with Manchester airport and will seek to mitigate job losses, pressing the company to use the government’s new job support scheme to save jobs and attempting to ensure that redundancies are voluntary rather than compulsory.
The decision to cut staff follows a 90 per cent reduction in demand for travel through hubs run by the Manchester Airports Group (MAG) since March.
Charlie Cornish, CEO of MAG, 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.
“The end of the Job Retention Scheme means that we have to consider the number of roles that we can sustain at our airports.
“We will be discussing these issues with our trade unions, and consulting them fully on a range of options for reducing the size and overall cost of our workforce. We want to work with them to make sure we minimise the impact on our people as much as we can.
“I want to thank everyone across MAG for the dedication they have shown through the toughest summer our industry has ever seen.
“MAG and other UK airports remain fundamentally strong businesses that will play an important role in driving the country’s recovery, but the specific and short term pressures of the pandemic are exceptional and particularly challenging for our sector.
“We are proud of our long-standing role in supporting communities around our airports and underpinning the employment of more than 130,000 people across the UK.
“We will continue to work to protect as many jobs as possible, maintain dialogue with our trade unions, and continue to make the case to government for the direct support that UK aviation needs.”
Since the start of the pandemic, MAG has taken other steps to reduce costs, including 10 per cent pay cuts for a year and pausing capital investment and non-essential spending.
MAG has already reduced the size of its management team, and worked with trade unions to protect as many jobs as possible.
As part of this, MAG has made extensive use of the government’s Job Retention Scheme since its introduction in March. This scheme will be replaced by the Job Support Scheme from the beginning of November, offering employers a much smaller contribution to meeting payroll costs for a six-month period.
All proposed measures will be subject to consultation with MAG’s unions and staff across Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands Airports.
Lawrence Chapple-Gill, Unite regional co-ordinating officer, said: “This announcement will come as a bitter blow to the hard working staff at Manchester airport.
“They and their families now face a very difficult and unsettling time but Unite will support them every step of the way.
“Unite will do everything it can to reduce job losses and seek to ensure that any eventual redundancies are voluntary and not compulsory in nature.
“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.”
He said confidence in the industry would return once COVID-19 was under control, adding: “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.”
Together with the TUC and all aviation unions, Unite is calling for the government to undertake the economic and fiscal measures needed to support the sector, including:
- The extension of, and modifications to, the coronavirus job retention scheme to protect employment in the aviation sector
- Suspension of air passenger duty
- Public service obligation routes to ensure regional connectivity
- Business rate relief for airports (as in Scotland and Northern Ireland)
- Extending the period of repayment of loans to aviation companies beyond the current two year maximum.
The Manchester Evening News has contacted the government for comment.