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Published on Monday, April 27, 2020

Unite sets out radical rescue plan for UK aviation

Unite the union is calling on the UK Government to provide loans or take stakes in airlines to help the industry survive the pandemic and be ready for the post-Covid world.

In a 'radical blueprint' outlined in a letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak and transport secretary Grant Shapps, the union says all loans and stakes should be fully repayable.

The letter also stipulates that companies who participate in such a scheme should be prohibited from paying dividends, undertaking share buybacks or capital contributions, until 12 months after the loan is fully repaid.

Unite believes all elements of executive pay should be capped and employment and employee terms and conditions protected, with any reduction in workforce restricted to 10% or less.

It said for companies to be eligible for such support they need to be either suffering losses, acting to consolidate business, or to rescue or replace a part of the sector that no longer exists.

All financial support and loans should be provided on the condition that recipients have a clear programme of transition to more efficient and greener travel operations.

In addition, smaller airports and air traffic control, as well as specific routes within the UK's aviation network, should be publicly financed in order to retain much needed and vital connectivity.

Unite says it's inevitable the industry must change post Covid and there could be wider scale consolidation across all parts of the sector.

For this to happen, the government will need to initially provide finance, it says.

Unite says its 'radical blueprint' is similar to those being discussed and promoted by unions and aviation groups throughout the EU and is comparable to the $45 billion government bailout being given to the US aviation industry.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "The action of the government in furloughing workers is an excellent first step in preserving jobs and companies in the aviation sector but further radical action is needed to secure its future.

"As an island aviation is crucial to the UK for trade, business and maintaining social and family networks.

"Even during the Covid-19 pandemic aviation has continued to play a vital role delivering critically needed supplies such as medicines as well as repatriating citizens from around the world.

"We know that the Treasury and the government is rightly looking at the shape of the economy on the other side of this crisis and Unite hopes that it will appreciate the union is acting as an honest broker whose concern is protecting jobs, an essential service, the economy and not shareholders and the boardroom."

"What is clear is that the UK aviation sector will not simply fully restart once the lockdown ends and if we are to have the viable industry that the UK needs and which provides hundreds of thousands of jobs, further radical action is required.

"The UK's aviation sector can and will have a viable future but it is going to look very different to what existed prior to the pandemic. The government has a key strategic role in shaping the future of what is and should remain, a world class sector.

"We need a sector which meets the needs of the economy and the public rather than that of shareholders and directors, while at the same time maintaining employment. Unite's blueprint will achieve this.

"In its election manifesto the government committed to enhancing regional connectivity. Unite believes that pledge needs to be honoured as well as ensuring international connectivity is maintained."

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