Government’s infrastructure plans a missed opportunity for aviation

The Prime Minister’s plans for what he describes as shovel-ready infrastructure sound dynamic enough. However, if he is serious about it then he must get Heathrow expansion back on track – and quickly, says one of Britain’s biggest unions, GMB and the Back Heathrow campaign.

Expansion will generate 180,000 jobs across the UK and 10,000 apprenticeships, underpinned by recognition agreements with trade unions to protect the quality of these roles. 

Expansion can be delivered with sustainability at its heart – setting new world-leading targets for an airport on air quality, noise and carbon reduction, at a time when pressure on the aviation industry is damaging the UK economy.

Warren Kenny, GMB’s London regional secretary said: “GMB welcomes genuine investment in public infrastructure, but the PM’s announcement today is an extraordinary body swerve on the crisis in aviation. To give real confidence to an industry that has been bashed due to his weak response to the economic crisis, he should have shown proper leadership and done a U-turn on Heathrow’s expansion. This will create 180,000 jobs, 10,000 apprenticeships, and restore long-term confidence for a sector that’s on its knees.”

Parmjit Dhanda, Executive Director of Back Heathrow said: “If confidence and growth is to return to the economy and if the government is serious about a global Britain, then Heathrow must be at the heart of those plans. This announcement has failed to recognise the importance of global trade in our nation’s economic recovery.

“By giving a commitment to build a new runway, alongside new regulations on air quality and decarbonisation, he could have set a better path for new jobs and sustainable economic growth. He failed to do it.”


Local residents give their verdict on Heathrow and the lockdown

An online poll conducted by the Back Heathrow community group shows:

  • Local residents are opposed to the government’s quarantine policy;
  • are in favour of more investment in Heathrow;
  • want to see common international standards for airport health checks.

Asked about government plans to quarantine all airport arrivals for 14 days and the impact on jobs in the tourism and travel industries, nearly a half of all respondents (47%) thought it was wrong, 29% thought it was right, whilst 24% were unsure.

Nine out of ten residents also wanted the Government to establish a UK-wide and common international standard for temperature checks and contactless security measures.

Turning to the economic future of the UK and west London in particular, eight out ten thought the government should invest in Heathrow Airport to help boost the UK – now in the deepest recession since the 1930s.

Concern about employment came through strongly, with nine out of ten concerned about the low number of planes using the airport and the announcements by British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and other airlines on job losses and reduced operations.

This was mirrored with the question on Government help to the airport and airlines, with another massive eight out of ten saying the government should intervene to help the aviation industry before it was too late.

But perhaps the most interesting question was whether residents had noticed any difference to noise, pollution and traffic since lockdown, with traffic heading the poll over noise and pollution.

 

 

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Boris Johnson warned 25,000 west Londoners could lose their jobs: “Crude and clumsy” 14-day quarantine rule must be scrapped before it’s too late

Parmjit Dhanda, Executive Director of Back Heathrow, a community group supporting the expansion of Heathrow Airport, has warned Boris Johnson that government measures to impose a 14-day quarantine on air passengers arriving in the UK risks a jobs meltdown for local people, including many living in the Prime Minister’s own constituency.

Mr Dhanda said: “Up to 25,000 local people working at Heathrow are facing redundancy. The airport and airlines operating here have been hit hard by the Covid crisis, but the government is making things even worse through its crude and clumsy 14-day quarantine plan.”

Calling on Boris Johnson and Home Secretary, Priti Patel, to scrap the ill-thought through quarantine plans and take a smarter, targeted approach Mr Dhanda said: “The government must move quickly to reopen aviation, for unless imminent steps are taken, such as opening airbridges to low risk countries, west London could collapse into an economic wasteland.

“The boss of Heathrow Airport has said loud and clear that he’s had to cut a third of the operating costs and a third of the airport’s management costs, and now I’m told front line staff are in the firing line. I can’t believe the Prime Minister is prepared to sit idly by while family after family in his own backyard face losing the jobs of their main bread-winner.”


BBC reports on looming economic crisis for Hounslow and surrounding areas

This week, BBC London News highlighted the economic storm about to hit the London Borough of Hounslow.

43,000 jobs in the borough depend on Heathrow, with 11,000 local people directly employed there and another 32,000 in the supply chain.

Source: Hounslow Council

Passenger numbers are already down 97%, leading many companies to furlough staff in the hope of saving their jobs until the Coronavirus crisis has passed. The decision to introduce 14-day quarantine for arrivals is likely to reduce passenger numbers still further and the government’s plans to transfer much of the cost of the furlough scheme to employers could have dire consequences for boroughs like Hounslow.

Wayne King of Unite the Union, which represents thousands of workers at Heathrow, told the BBC: “As employers begin to ease out of furlough, some of them are not going to be able to afford the contributions the government is looking for them to make. Mass redundancies will have a devastating effect on the local economy.”

The news item suggested the economic output in the borough could fall by 40% and one-in-three households is at risk of job losses.

Source: Hounslow Council

The government seems determined to push ahead on its quarantine plan. The leader of Hounslow Council, Cllr Steve Curran, wants the government to carefully consider the consequences.

“We are moving on to the economic crisis. I would ask people to think really hard about what that will mean, if there is mass unemployment.”

Without a concerted government plan for recovery in aviation, boroughs like Hounslow will be dealing with an economic crisis on top of the Covid-19 pandemic.


Heathrow’s contribution to councils and government is highest in the country

The importance of Heathrow airport to the local and national economy should not be underestimated says community campaign, Back Heathrow.

Last year the airport was comfortably Britain’s biggest payer of business rates, according to the Altus Group - paying a bill of £118m, which goes to local councils and central government, and ultimately funds public services.

Heathrow’s contribution to the public purse dwarfs the others in the top ten business rate-payer list, with Gatwick airport the second highest payer on £30.4m and Sellafield nuclear power station contributing £24m.

Other sites that depend on Heathrow’s existence also made the top 50. British Airways’ Terminal 5 building; BA’s world cargo terminal and the airline’s engineering base paid business rates of £13.8 million, £22.4 million and £13.1 million respectively.

Back Heathrow Executive Director, Parmjit Dhanda said: “These figures are quite staggering. Heathrow is not just Britain’s front door to trade. It also supports local and central government to the tune of over £118 million in business rates, which in turn funds our public services. We all depend on this airport’s success for our public services.”

West London has upwards of 150,000 jobs that depend on Heathrow airport. They contribute over £6bn to the economy, but due to government’s lack of support for aviation, many of these jobs are in peril. Thousands of jobs have already been slashed by airlines and related industries around the country. West London is particularly vulnerable because it is home to Heathrow, one of the country’s biggest generators of jobs. But the whole country is affected by a downturn at Heathrow, which will result in a decline in the tax take.

Mr Dhanda added: “The government needs to realise it is not just tourism, leisure and trade that is threatened by their lack of a plan to support the aviation sector. The business rates alone from Heathrow provides government with over £100m annually towards local and national public services. It’s time for government to show that it cares about Heathrow.”

Before Covid-19 brought the economy to a standstill, Heathrow was Britain’s biggest port by value. Back Heathrow would like to see the government urgently produce:

  • Consistent regulations for Coronavirus testing at all UK airports, as part of consistent global standards to restore public confidence
  • A plan to protect airlines from collapse
  • A long-term plan for UK aviation.

 


The Government must take action now to safeguard UK airlines and airports

The proposals from British Airways to make as many as 12,000 people redundant and possibly end its entire operation at Gatwick is a worrying demonstration of how Covid-19 is changing the world. It is a deeply concerning time for people in and around Heathrow airport.

With so many jobs and livelihoods dependent on a thriving UK aviation industry, these fears will be shared in homes and communities across the country. Regional airports throughout the land are suffering. Some, like Newquay and Teeside, have shut to all but the emergency services, whilst others are reducing hours of operation and severely curtailing flights. Glasgow Airport has even repurposed its long-stay car park to host a drive-through mobile testing centre for the virus.

It’s not just the airlines and the airports that are suffering, as thousands of local businesses who rely upon them for work are hurting too – caterers, taxi drivers, cargo handlers, transport and construction workers, energy suppliers, security staff, cleaners and so on. It has been estimated that in the area to the west of Heathrow aviation and related activity supports around 120,000 jobs and contributes £6.2billion to the UK economy.

As Executive Director of Back Heathrow, the community group with over 100,000 supporters, I speak to local businesses, employees, and unions, and know the anguish this is causing. It’s really tough, but I know that we are all in this together and if the UK is to get its economy back on track, it’s going to need fully functioning airports and local businesses trading successfully again.

I hope that for some it won’t be too late. The Government must take action now to safeguard UK airlines and airports, so we can meet the Prime Minister’s challenge and ‘fire up the engines’ of our economy in post-lockdown Britain.

Parmjit Dhanda

 


Political inaction on aviation will lead to higher levels of joblessness in areas like west London and the Thames Valley

Political inaction on aviation during the Covid-19 crisis will lead to higher levels of joblessness in areas like west London and the Thames Valley, where Heathrow airport supports upwards of 150,000 jobs, says Back Heathrow today.

Furthermore, other towns, cities and regions with airports could see them left with mass unemployment too, for years to come.

Parmjit Dhanda, Executive Director of Back Heathrow warns that the government is running out of time to formulate a plan for aviation to save communities in west London from a generation of long-term unemployment.

Mr Dhanda said: “West London has upwards of 150,000 jobs that depend on Heathrow airport. They contribute over £6bn to the economy, but due to government’s inaction their jobs are in greater peril. We have already seen thousands of jobs slashed by airlines and related industries around the country. West London is particularly vulnerable because it is home to Heathrow, one of the country’s biggest generators of jobs.

“However, the government has no plan to restore confidence in aviation through nationally adopted health tests for Coronavirus at airports. Heathrow has taken its own initiative to introduce thermal imaging tests, in the absence of government action. The government has no plan to save jobs when airlines and airports are reeling, causing immense strain on the wider supply chain. It needs to act or west London, the Thames Valley and other areas dependent on airport jobs will become employment waste grounds.”

Back Heathrow’s call for action comes in a week when British Airways has said it will axe 12,000 jobs and Virgin Airlines a further 3,000. Regional airports across the UK are suffering. Some, like Newquay and Teesside, have shut to all but the emergency services, whilst others have reduced hours of operation and severely curtailed flights. Glasgow Airport has even repurposed its long-stay car park to host a drive-through mobile Coronavirus testing centre.

It’s not just airlines and the airports that are suffering. Thousands of local businesses that rely upon them for work are hurting too – caterers, taxi drivers, cargo handlers, transport and construction workers, energy suppliers, security staff, cleaners and many others.

Back Heathrow would like to see the government urgently produce:

  • Consistent regulations for Coronavirus testing at all UK airports, as part of consistent global standards to restore public confidence
  • A plan to protect airlines from collapse
  • A long-term plan for UK aviation.

Lack of testing creates false impression at airports

In these worrying times people are asking why is it that passengers arriving at Heathrow from around the world, including Covid19 hotspots like China, Italy and Iran, aren’t being tested for Covid19? Instead, under a system of 'enhanced monitoring', passengers are handed information leaflets and told to self-isolate for 14 days.

John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive of Heathrow Airport, is equally bemused, and he isn’t alone. Other UK airports are also confused by the situation. They say the absence of checks is creating a false impression that Britain's airports are more dangerous than other nations and fear this could have long-term implications on passenger numbers.

As Executive Director of Back Heathrow, I support John Holland-Kaye’s letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, demanding stringent regulations to combat the virus. It’s time to adopt an internationally agreed set of measures for all airports in the world, including temperature checks, antibody tests, and a requirement that all passengers carry health passports proving they are medically fit. Without such precautions the health of the nation is at further risk, making a mockery of the lockdown conditions imposed on the rest of our country.

I know the critical role air travel plays in the lives of local people and indeed the whole of the UK. There are 76,000 jobs at stake at Heathrow and many more in local supply chains and supporting industries. These people need to feed their families, pay the rent or mortgage, and spend in the local economy. They need the government to urgently agree a plan that revives confidence here.

Our national plan must include the rigorous application of social distancing as well as temperature and antibody tests at British airports.

Parmjit Dhanda


A helping hand and a quiz for the kids

The Coronavirus emergency has shown us just how many people we depend on in our day to day lives.

On Thursday evenings at 8pm we have been able to celebrate many of them. Whether it’s our NHS heroes – the doctors, nurses and carers who risk their lives for us every day, or others like shopkeepers, refuse workers and volunteers in our neighbourhoods. They certainly deserve all the support we can give.

Heathrow is playing its part too at this difficult time. We know that across the country there have been huge issues in getting PPE (personal protective equipment) to frontline staff.

So, it was good to see Heathrow donate 6,000 respiratory face masks in the last week to Hillingdon Hospital and the Thames Valley Air Ambulance, and more will be delivered to these frontline organisations in the next few days.

Local Heathrow Community Rangers have been terrific – out in local communities delivering donations to foodbanks.

Despite operating with only one runway, Heathrow airport has experienced a 409% rise in ‘cargo only’ flights, carrying essential medical equipment and supplies for frontline teams battling against the pandemic.

On a lighter note, for those of you with children aged between 7 and 11, you might be finding it hard to keep them occupied during this extended Easter holiday. If so, why not visit the Heathrow educational resources website: https://www.heathrow.com/company/local-community/educational-resources

The website has a fun airport cargo challenge, a comms challenge and an airport quiz to keep the kids occupied – at least for a bit.

This is going to be a strange Easter weekend for us all. But please follow the government advice – stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

The Back Heathrow team


Ealing petition for free vote on Heathrow exceeds 2,000

A local petition, urging Ealing Council to hold a ‘free vote’ on whether the borough will back Heathrow expansion has reached over 2,000 signatories.

But the campaign has decided not to present the petition to full council in April so Ealing’s officers and councillors can focus on the crucial task of fighting Covid 19.

The petition, backed by local groups including the Indian Workers’ Association and trade unions Unite and GMB was due to be presented to the April meeting of the council.

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