A latest analysis of job losses at Gatwick Airport, by Unite, the UK’s principal aviation union, demonstrates the devastation being wrought across the entire sector due to the Covid-19 pandemic and highlights the failure of the government to intervene and protect jobs.


Huge job losses


Unite has found that already over 6,000 workers based at airport, employed directly by the airport, by airlines, or in the various supply chains have lost their jobs or at risk of redundancy, since the beginning of the pandemic.


However, the 6,000 figure only includes areas where Unite is organised and does not include the retail, hotel or hospitality sectors which have also witnessed massive job losses.


Domino effect


The scale of job losses at Gatwick, which is the major employer in the locality, is inevitably having a huge knock-on effect on the economic health of the nearby town of Crawley and the surrounding area.  Unite is warning that without urgent government support, the airport and its communities will become a `ghost town'.


While some experts have suggested that Gatwick airport, which has been most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, a similar scenario is being experienced in the sector throughout the UK.


Pay and conditions under attack


In addition to the redundancies, Unite has also been contending with attacks on workers’ pay and conditions with many workers seeing working hours cut, pay rates reduced, or being forced onto zero hours style contracts.


The analysis of the job losses at Gatwick comes on the eve of a parliamentary debate on the aviation sector (tomorrow Thursday 10 September).


The government first promised to provide specific support to the aviation sector which has been most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in March.


Government inaction 


However, unlike other major European countries and even the United States, which have provided billions of support for their aviation sectors, the UK has failed to provide a similar lifeline to protect jobs.


It is understood that the Department for Transport will publish a recovery plan for the aviation sector running until 2025, this autumn. Unite has warned that this is set to be ‘too little too late.’


Ghost town 


Unite regional officer Jamie Major said: “Prior to the pandemic Gatwick was a thriving community but unless the government provides direct support the airport faces becoming a ghost town.


“The huge job losses are now causing a domino effect with non-aviation employers in Crawley and the surrounding area being affected, which is likely to lead to further job losses.


“Even where work has been preserved many employers have cut hours or rates of pay creating further misery. 


"Responsible employers have introduced temporary measures while the unscrupulous have made such cuts permanent, in the expectation this will boost profits when the industry recovers.


“If the government does not provide long-promised financial support to the sector further job losses are inevitable.”


Joint union demands 


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.


Unite blueprint 


The full list of measures can be found on Unite’s urgent summer update to its ‘Flying into the Future’ blueprint, which was first published in May in response to the coronavirus crisis. 




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.