Unions tell Prime Minister – act now on business rates to save Heathrow jobs

Trade unions have teamed up with the campaign group Back Heathrow to urge the Prime Minister to help communities impacted by the crisis in aviation caused by the Covid 19 pandemic.

In a joint letter the trade unions GMB, USDAW, Community and Back Heathrow have asked the government for a business rate waiver for Heathrow airport – the country’s biggest payer of business rates – and its biggest single site employer.

Parmjit Dhanda, Executive Director of Back Heathrow said: “Airports in Scotland and Northern Ireland have received a 100% business rate waiver, as have other sectors of our economy. Airport communities in England are suffering badly due to lockdowns and reduction in flights.

“Despite losing over 80% of its flights, Heathrow’s business rates bill is still a massive £120m. The airport has only been given a 7% waiver. This is not sustainable and makes a bad situation worse for those depending on Heathrow and its supply chain for work. Airport communities in England need the same level of support as those in other parts of the UK. That’s why Back Heathrow and the trade unions have written to the Prime Minister.”

Under recent government measures, supermarkets were given 100% waivers to their business rates bills. The big supermarkets have handed back their waivers – so far worth £1.4bn. The trade unions and Back Heathrow say this should be used to help Heathrow survive.

In respect of the £1.4bn, the letter signed by leaders of three of the UK’s largest trade unions states: “Less than one-tenth of this waiver money would help Heathrow survive the present crisis, save countless local businesses, and thousands of jobs. We urge you to use this money as a lifeline for everyone who depends on Heathrow for their livelihoods and protect the future of our airport.” Download the letter here.

Unions have also urged the government to include a caveat that the funds will only be spent after a dialogue with unions to ensure jobs are protected at the airport and the wider aviation supply chain.

Back Heathrow speaks for 100,000 residents and businesses that depend on the airport for their livelihoods.

A recent report by Oxford Economics suggests that up to 62,000 local jobs could be at risk due to reduced activity at Heathrow airport. The Oxford Economics report is here.


Supreme Court decision on expansion: Photo gallery


Supreme Court judgement is boost for Heathrow's new runway

Speaking after the Supreme Court judgement that ruled that Heathrow’s plan for a new runway is not illegal, Parmjit Dhanda, Executive Director of back Heathrow said: “This is an important moment for local communities who are desperate for jobs and apprenticeships at a very hard time for our economy.

“It is also a huge moment for the UK as it moves towards an uncertain Brexit, but now with the confidence that international trade will be boosted by additional capacity at the country’s only hub airport.

“Alongside our supporters in the CBI, TUC, and local communities, we see this as an opportunity to make progress, whilst also working to ensure the Paris carbon reduction targets are met as part of the planning application.

“This judgement reflects the alignment between the highest court in the land with a parliamentary majority of 296.”

Back Heathrow says expansion will bring 180,000 new jobs and 10,000 apprenticeships – something the whole country will benefit from. This can be done with strict compliance to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and investing in sustainable technology that will improve aircraft efficiency and boost the development of commercial sustainable fuels. It’s crucial for the UK to now get on and build the new runway.


Tomorrow’s runway ruling comes at ‘crunch time for UK’s struggling economy’ say Back Heathrow

Parmjit Dhanda, Executive Director of Back Heathrow said: “The Supreme Court judgement comes at a crunch time for the UK’s struggling economy. The go-ahead for a new runway will give hope for new jobs and a post Covid recovery. Else we face the loss of much needed trading opportunities, at a time of growing Brexit uncertainty.

“The CBI, the TUC and over 100,000 local residents have been campaigning for a new runway for many years, with the backing of a 296-vote majority in Parliament. It’s time to get on and build it, and meet our climate reduction targets too.”

Back Heathrow says expansion will bring 180,000 new jobs and 10,000 apprenticeships – something the whole country will benefit from. This can be done with strict compliance to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and investing in sustainable technology that will improve aircraft efficiency and boost the development of commercial sustainable fuels. It’s crucial for the UK to get this long-awaited scheme built.

The Appeal Court ruled against a new runway in February, stating that it did not contain legal commitments on carbon targets set out in the Paris Agreement. All other objections to expansion were not upheld.


Aviation communities have highest unemployment

Unemployment in constituencies around Heathrow has soared since March, a new study by the House of Commons Library shows.

In Hayes and Harlington, the constituency that includes Heathrow, unemployment climbed from 2,725 in March to 7,750 in October – a 184% increase.

The study reveals that other aviation communities across the UK have also suffered – unemployment in Gatwick, Manchester, Luton and Stansted is a third higher compared with regional averages.

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Government should use Tesco cash to save aviation jobs in west London

Business rates relief paid back to the government by Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi and Morrisons should be used to save jobs in the communities around Heathrow airport. That is the verdict of Back Heathrow the community campaign that represents the views of over 100,000 residents and businesses that depend on the airport for their livelihoods.

Whilst booming supermarkets were given 100% waivers to their business rates bills, Heathrow airport has only been given a waiver of 7% of its £120m bill. Heathrow is the country’s largest single site payer of business rates, and its biggest employer.

Back Heathrow Executive Director, Parmjit Dhanda said: “The decision by big supermarkets to hand back over £1bn in business rates relief is welcome. However, Heathrow is on its knees and the west London communities that depend on it are facing a jobs crisis.

“The government could redirect the supermarket money to waive Heathrow’s business rates and save thousands of jobs. Airports in Scotland and Northern Ireland have received a 100% waiver, but not Heathrow. West London needs equal treatment.”

Heathrow airport pays £120m in business rates, yet because of the pandemic it has lost 82% of its flights. So far in 2020 Heathrow has lost £1.5bn in income and has been offered a waiver of just 7% of its business rates.

A recent report by Oxford Economics suggests that up to 62,000 local jobs could be at risk due to the downturn at Heathrow airport. Heathrow is the country’s biggest single site employer and is also the biggest employer in the Prime Minister’s own constituency.

References:

Sainsbury's will hand back up to £440 million saved from Covid business rates holiday | Daily Mail Online

The Oxford Economics report into reduced activity at Heathrow is here


Back Heathrow welcomes local recovery plan

Back Heathrow has welcomed the news that the Heathrow Local Recovery Forum (Chaired by Lord David Blunkett) is calling for collaborative and concerted action to help revive the local economy, which has been so badly affected by reduced activity at the airport during 2020.

Back Heathrow Executive Director Parmjit Dhanda said: “A new and dedicated Job Centre Plus service can help provide the skills and opportunities to keep local people in work and help people find jobs too.

“The recommendations made by Lord Blunkett and the Local Recovery Forum in their report, are very welcome. We hope this plan gets the government support it needs to help our local communities get through the economic fallout from Coronavirus.”

 


We need expansion to kick start the economy, says Back Heathrow

Speaking on the day of Heathrow airport’s appeal to the Supreme Court over its plan for a new runway, Parmjit Dhanda, executive director of Back Heathrow said that the court decision could kick start a jobs recovery.

Mr Dhanda said: “Although this appeal is a technical one about whether the Government took the Paris Agreement into account when agreeing its national policy on airports, the need to create jobs for the future is more important than ever.

“We hope the Supreme Court will back the verdict of an independent commission and a Parliamentary majority of 296 votes and allow expansion at Heathrow. It is clear that this privately funded infrastructure project can create the thousands of jobs and apprenticeships that will help to kick-start a jobs recovery for our country. This can and will be done in accordance with climate change agreements.”

Back Heathrow believes that the existing Airports National Policy Statement already makes clear that approval for expansion would be refused if it impacted the UK’s ability to meet carbon, air and noise targets.

Mr Dhanda added: The Coronavirus pandemic has created a dire situation for airports, airlines and the wider supply chain, with businesses employing hundreds of thousands of people either collapsing or on the brink. A huge hole has been blasted in our national economy, leaving the country woefully underprepared for life in a post-Brexit world. Heathrow expansion presents a great opportunity for our country.”

The Appeal Court ruled against a new runway in February, stating that it did not contain legal commitments on carbon targets set out in the Paris Agreement. All other objections to expansion were not upheld.


Time is running out to save airport communities

The aviation industry is in deep crisis and time is running out for the government to act. Failure to act will have long-term implications for airport communities across the country. That is why GMB London and the Back Heathrow campaign have come together to make the case for urgent action to protect jobs, businesses and the communities we represent.

Campaigners outside the Crown Court in 2019

As Covid-19 has swept across the world, those at the heart of ensuring global connectivity have been hardest hit. Heathrow, the UK’s only hub-airport, was operating at 98% capacity before the virus struck. Millions of people were passing through every month, but by August 2020 passenger traffic had fallen by over 80% compared to the same month last year.

It is a dire situation for airports, airlines and the wider supply chain with businesses employing hundreds of thousands of people either collapsing or on the brink. A huge hole has been blasted in our national economy, leaving the country woefully underprepared for life in a post-Brexit world. It is clear - this is a national emergency for aviation that requires significant, urgent action.

However, instead of taking measures to ensure Britain can protect jobs and trade, the government has passively watched from the side-lines as thousands of skilled, unionised jobs have been lost. We believe there is a real danger that many sizeable airport towns and cities will lose businesses and jobs that may never return, leaving ghost towns where once we saw thriving, diverse communities.  

The government can, and must act decisively to prevent this by:

  1. Recognising the contribution of aviation to the national economy. Over a million people rely on the sector for their livelihoods, and our public services need the £22 billion it adds to our GDP. Aviation is a special case, and the government should recognise that.
  2. Ensuring government investment is supported by a plan to transition to sustainable aviation. Creating a greener industry that meets the demands of a net-zero carbon world can benefit jobs too. By investing in Sustainable Aviation Fuels the government could support aviation and deliver on our environmental commitments.
  3. Providing immediate support, by ensuring the Job Support Scheme remains in place for as long as it takes to protect aviation jobs; and offering respite for airports to help retain staff through the deferral of business rates - as we have already seen in Scotland and Wales.
  4. Creating a national standard for safe flying with appropriate levels of PPE for staff and replacing the blunt quarantine policy with Covid testing at airports – restoring passenger confidence to fly again, as over 50 other nations have done already.
  5. Stop delaying Heathrow's expansion. When the Supreme Court has had it say this Autumn, the government should concentrate on delivering the long-term capacity at Heathrow that Parliament and an Independent Commission has called for. London and the country need the 180,000 new jobs and 10,000 apprenticeships that expansion will deliver. This can and must be done with strict compliance to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

It is time for the government to get serious about our airports, our aviation industry and its vast supply chain. GMB London and Back Heathrow want action to protect jobs, action to help businesses to trade and action to ensure the fabric of life in so many airport towns remains intact. There is no more time to lose.

This article was co-authored by the GMB union and Back Heathrow.


Local people call for action to save Heathrow jobs after ‘harrowing’ independent report

An independent report which suggests that over 60,000 local jobs could be lost in the six boroughs around Heathrow airport, unless there is urgent government action, has been described as ‘harrowing’.

Mr Shafick Emmambokus said: “I have lived in the borough of Hounslow almost all my working life. Local people are reliant on the airport to feed their families and pay their mortgages. Covid-19 has had a disastrous impact on aviation related jobs. I know many people that face financial ruin. We need Heathrow airport up and running again urgently.”

The full impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on Heathrow airport and the economy of west London was revealed in a new report by Oxford Economics.

It says reduced activity at Heathrow (where passenger traffic is down 81% this year) will have a significant impact on the local economy in six boroughs in particular: Ealing, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Slough, South Bucks and Spelthorne.

The report estimates that Heathrow supports 133,600 jobs across this study area in total – equivalent to around one in six jobs within the local workforce. The authors set out scenarios for job losses depending on how quickly passenger and cargo levels return to pre-crisis levels.

The central forecast says there could be 37,000 fewer jobs next year. However, the report’s worst-case scenario suggests that up to 62,000 jobs could be lost across the six boroughs.

Back Heathrow executive director, Parmjit Dhanda said: “This is a harrowing report for west London and the Thames Valley. We need the government to act to save jobs across the aviation sector and in our local communities, right now. Its sluggish response to the crisis in aviation is hurting communities in all of the boroughs that neighbour Heathrow.”

The Back Heathrow campaign, local businesses and trade unions are calling for urgent government action to end the current quarantine arrangements and replace it with Covid-19 testing at airports.

The Oxford Economics report can be downloaded here.