Aviation industry workers will stage several protests at Heathrow airport and in the local community on Monday (10 August) to demand chancellor Rishi Sunak prevents ‘devastation’ within the aviation industry by fulfilling his promise to provide support for the sector.  

When: Monday 10 August at 12:00

Where: Heathrow Terminal 3, TW6 1QG

Unite members will hold the socially distanced protest outside the UK’s largest airport, which handled over 80 million passengers in 2019, to demand ‘immediate government support' for the sector.

Not doing so risks ‘hurting jobs, communities and businesses alike’, the union said. 

Heathrow demo

The demonstration at the airport is limited to 50 people and will be joined by James Murray MP. A further larger protest of Heathrow aviation workers will be held simultaneously at Cranford Park, Cranford, Middlesex, TW5 9RZ.

The demonstrations are part of Unite’s UK campaign of action to coincide with what was the busiest time of year for global air travel in 2019.

60,000 jobs lost

Around 60,000 jobs – equivalent to the population of Tunbridge Wells – from the industry have already been lost, including at Heathrow Airport. In contrast to the crisis the industry is currently facing, August 9 marked the busiest day of 2019 for global air travel. 

Unite said aviation workers are ‘pleading’ with the chancellor to fulfil a promise he made in March to support the sector and allow it to weather the temporary impacts of the pandemic without mass job losses. To further highlight their plight, Unite is urging members of the public to send Rishi Sunak a digital ‘wish you were here… to save UK aviation jobs’ postcard. 

Government inaction

The government’s inaction is in stark difference to the decisive and job saving measures taken by other countries, such as Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, in relation to their aviation sectors.

Heathrow’s importance to the economy is underlined by the fact that it generates £9.7 billion to the UK’s Gross Value Added income and that it supports around 190,000 jobs across the UK.

In total 84,400 people are directly employed at the airport, which hosts 320 businesses making it the largest workplace in Europe. One in five local jobs are based at the airport and 40 per cent of the workforce in the surrounding area is employed in the aviation sector.

Pleading with chancellor

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said: “Aviation workers are pleading with the chancellor to keep the promise he made in March and provide support for the sector. They have now been waiting for months and hundreds of jobs across the region have been lost as a result. 

“The aviation industry is a major part of the economy in London and the South East but faces devastation without immediate government support, hurting workers, communities and businesses alike. The delay is inexcusable, especially given the prompt actions of other countries to support their aviation industries.

 “Unite is also calling for employers not to hollow out their operations in response to a temporary downturn. Unite has been successful in working with companies such as Ryanair to prevent redundancies through temporary tiered pay reductions and job pooling and we urge other companies to do the same.”  

Unite blueprint

Together with the TUC and all aviation unions, Unite is calling for the government to take on 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 full list of measures can be found on Unite’s urgent summer update to its ‘Flying into the Future’ blueprint, which was produced in March in response to the coronavirus crisis. The blueprint in its entirety can be found here.


Notes to editors:

 During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: [email protected]

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.