The announcement that Stobart Aviation Services is proposing to make substantial job cuts among its ground crew (principally baggage handlers) at Manchester, Southend and Stansted airports is further evidence that the aviation sector is in desperate need of government support in order to survive the Covid-19 pandemic.

Major job losses

Unite the union says that at Manchester airport Stobart Aviation Services is consulting to make 63 out of 149 workers redundant, 42 per cent of the workforce.

At Southend airport, which has already been very heavily hit by the Covid-19 pandemic with both Aer Lingus’ regional service and easyJet leaving the airport completely, proposed job losses are 94 out of 153, 61 per cent of the current workforce.

At Stansted airport, where Stobart Aviation Services was previously turning around 890 planes a week it is now only dealing with 157 planes and as a consequence it is proposing to make 98 out of 147 workers (67 per cent) redundant.

JRS cliff edge

According to Unite, this latest round of redundancies is almost certainly linked to the proposed end of the government’s job retention scheme (JRS), which will conclude at the end of October. Unite has been warning repeatedly that without targeted support for such sectors as aviation, aerospace and hospitality which have been most severally effected by the Covid-19 pandemic, jobs will be lost needlessly.

Government support 

Unite national officer for civil air transport Oliver Richardson said: “The proposed job losses at Stobart Aviation are yet another example of why the sector needs specific support from the government.

"Time and again we warned that this would happen. Aviation workers and this sector feel abandoned by this government.

 “With the JRS scheduled to end next month, companies feel they are on a cliff edge and with passenger numbers not likely to begin to recover until next year at the earliest many feel pushed into making dramatic job cuts.

 “The chancellor originally promised specific support for the aviation sector back in March and the failure to deliver on that promise has already cost thousands of workers their jobs.

"We urge him to delay not a day longer and bring forward the promised support so that more workers are not sent to the dole queue.

 “Unite will ensure that our members at Stobart Aviation Services who face a highly stressful and worrying time are treated fairly."

Stobart aviation worker support 

Unite will be entering into detailed negotiations with Stobart Aviation to ensure that the number of job losses is kept to an absolute minimum and that wherever possible redundancies are voluntary rather than compulsory in nature.

Unite will also ensure that the redundancy process is fair and transparent and that all our members are properly supported throughout.

Joint union plan

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.

Unite blueprint for aviation

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 more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235.

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.