Commenting on yesterday’s (June 23) travel day of action, Parmjit Dhanda, executive director of Back Heathrow said:
“The scale of the lobby should be a wake-up call for ministers. The strength of feeling among workers in the travel and aviation sectors yesterday, at events across the country, was palpable. Their jobs are in jeopardy. We hope the government will look at the science when updating its ‘green list’. This is a perfect opportunity to kick start the economy, save jobs and do it safely.”
For a gallery of images from yesterday click here.
Back Heathrow supporters are joining others from the travel industry as part of a day of action at Westminster on Wednesday, June 23rd. Similar lobbies have been arranged for the UK’s other capital cities on the same day.
Trade bodies from across the aviation and travel industries are coming together on the day to urge the government to stick to its Global Taskforce Plan and ensure a safe return to international travel in time for the peak summer period.
The day of action involves a lobby at the Houses of Parliament, as well as similar events in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
Parmjit Dhanda, executive director of Back Heathrow said the day of action demonstrates how dire the situation is for the aviation and travel industry.
“These sectors employ hundreds of thousands of people. Communities around Heathrow are particularly vulnerable. The fall-out from the pandemic has already cost many thousands of residents their livelihoods.
“Back Heathrow believe the government can do more to protect jobs in travel and aviation by extending the furlough scheme for the sector and by agreeing a safe return to international travel. They should stick to the science and use their own Global Task Force plan.”
Organisers of the day of action say the UK is falling behind other countries in restarting aviation and travel, particularly in Europe.
Back Heathrow argues that with the success of the UK vaccine programme, it is vital the government is proactive, and that a safe restarting of international travel is just the kick-start the UK economy needs.
Mr Dhanda added: “Heathrow is the engine room for the UK. We face doing permanent damage to the economy and the competitiveness of our aviation sector if the government delays further and fails to offer the support that jobs in aviation and travel need to survive.”
Government needs a clear plan to open up travel, not a series of last minute changes and contradictory signals, says Back Heathrow
Commenting on the continuing woes of the aviation and travel industry, Parmjit Dhanda, executive director of Back Heathrow said: “The green list announcement is particularly bad news for west London Boroughs and the Thames Valley. Local boroughs around the airport all have thousands of residents on furlough already – over 25,000 in Hounslow alone.
“The government needs a clear plan to open up travel, not a series of last minute changes and contradictory signals. There is no sugar coating for this. There are 1.6 million jobs related to the travel sector, and locally, we're set to be the hardest hit if the government doesn't get a grip of the situation.”
Back Heathrow agrees that the protection of public health is paramount, but says the purpose of the Global Travel Taskforce was to set out how to unlock low-risk travel safely.
The Back Heathrow campaign says if the government is serious about the sector, urgent action is needed to reopen flights to key trading partners, particularly the significant transatlantic route between Heathrow and the US.
Back Heathrow, the campaign representing the views of over 100,000 residents in boroughs around Heathrow airport, has welcomed the news that Heathrow Airport has become the first major UK airport to integrate Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) into its fuel distribution.
Parmjit Dhanda, Back Heathrow Executive Director said: “For the first time today sustainable aviation fuel made from renewable waste – like used cooking oil and animal fat will be incorporated into fuel for jet planes at a major British airport. This is a first for the UK and we hope other airports will follow Heathrow’s example and help lead the way to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
“This is great news for aviation communities because it shows clear progress on carbon reduction, and in the longer-term will also create new jobs in sustainable aviation fuels as commercial production is expanded. It’s an important day for a sector that has taken a battering during the Covid crisis.”
Read the story here: https://bit.ly/3cbbGvB
The government must continue to reopen international travel to safe destinations, or areas around our airports will see a sharp increase in unemployment, says the Back Heathrow campaign, which represents over 100,000 people living close to Heathrow.
It says those from ethnic minority communities stand to be hardest hit by the struggles facing airlines and airports due to Covid 19, and face being left behind as the government focusses on levelling up in the north.
With the government announcing the UK’s green list for travel, whereby UK citizens can fly to only 12 destinations, including Australia, New Zealand and Portugal, Back Heathrow’s Parmjit Dhanda has called for urgent government action to prevent a jobs catastrophe for communities in and around Heathrow and other major airports.
Mr Dhanda said: “Last summer a report by Oxford Economics set out forecasts for the impact of reduced activity at Heathrow caused by the pandemic and stated that 62,000 jobs are vulnerable in west London alone.
“Statistically there is evidence that many airport workers are from minority communities, not just at Heathrow but at Luton, Birmingham and other airports. We believe this is a major contributing factor to new TUC research which states that unemployment amongst BAME communities has increased at three times the rate of others. Over 25,000 people from ethnic minority communities work at Heathrow and live close to the airport.”
Ahead of the summer holiday season, Back Heathrow want the Government to assign ‘green list’ status to more low risk countries, as their vaccination rates increase and infection rates get lower. The government should also invest in more Border Force staff to ensure people can pass through quicker and with appropriate social distancing measures in place.
The damage to the aviation sector and the knock-on effect on diverse communities serving many airports is leading to a jobs crisis amongst BAME communities. Yet they are not a part of the Prime Minister’s ‘levelling up’ agenda.
In conclusion Mr Dhanda added: “Our message to the government is that the UK aviation industry needs more support. Without it half a million jobs are at risk – with a large proportion of them from ethnic minority backgrounds. People working in airport communities need full backing from the government if ‘levelling up’ is to work for the whole country.”
In the Southall area alone over 5,000 BAME residents work at Heathrow airport, and Cranford and Heston, next to the airport, is home to over 6,000 BAME Heathrow workers.
I want to pay tribute to Iqbal Singh Vaid today, on behalf of Back Heathrow, but also personally. Sadly, Iqbal passed away on Wednesday 23rd March, at the age of 78 after battling long-term illness.
But battling is something Iqbal Singh was renowned for in west London, where he was a pillar of our local community.
He was a retired BA employee, a General Secretary of the Indian Workers Association (IWA) and received many accolades from Unite the union. Many of us will remember him as a passionate trade unionist and a powerful orator. His oratory was as strong and clear in English as it was in his native Punjabi.
Influential people wanted to hear what he had to say, not just because he was clear in his beliefs on issues like workplace rights, equality, job creation and the expansion of Heathrow, but because they knew he was embedded in the community he loved – he spoke for many people. Iqbal took his passion for grassroots organisation from the union movement to the Indian Workers Association.
Personally, I enjoyed his counsel. He was knowledgeable, articulate and wise. To have all those qualities in such abundance is a rare thing.
He will be missed by many people, particularly his family and the Southall community in which he served with distinction.
Our thoughts are with his family and his many friends.
Parmjit Dhanda and all at Back Heathrow
The Back Heathrow campaign has a long-standing interest in a successful aviation industry – the clue is in our name.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that we are very concerned by forecasts from the New Economics Foundation that up to 124,000 jobs are at risk across aviation and the wider supply chain it supports.
Employers, trade unions and the government all have a part to play in ensuring we tackle the Covid 19 pandemic whilst also keeping the aviation industry going strong. It was right for the government to take steps to minimise unnecessary travel but wrong that, so far, it has failed to properly understand the crisis in towns adjacent to airports and offer the support necessary to protect jobs that will be key to the country’s recovery.
One of the reasons for this lack of focus on aviation is that the industry and trade unions have been largely ignored when they have argued their case.
Back Heathrow therefore supports calls from the aviation industry and the TUC for the establishment of a tripartite body of government, trade unions and industry to replace the rejigged but smaller Environmental Social and Governance Group to guide aviation into the recovery and beyond.
Now, more than ever we need a plan for how the aviation industry can safely return to normal including some targeted support which recognises the seasonal and interconnected nature of the aviation sector.
Back Heathrow believes that if the government really wants to safeguard as many jobs as possible in the sector then it needs to provide support to retain capacity and capability to rebuild and recover. A recent report from the industry and trade unions calling for ‘full business rates relief – including the full furlough scheme remaining in place whilst restrictions are in in force’ and ‘a commitment to invest in technology to reduce the carbon footprint of the aviation industry’ is the minimum required and should be supported.
Although, the March Budget statement did extend the job retention scheme, there was no mention of aviation. It was a missed opportunity.
A strong aviation sector is needed if the UK is to have a strong post-COVID recovery, both in terms of international trade and vital employment opportunities in all regions of the UK. It is now down to the government to listen to the aviation industry and its strong trade union base, to give the economy the much needed boost it needs.
Uxbridge residents who emailed their MP, Boris Johnson, about the critical situation of job losses at Heathrow have been left bemused and disappointed by his response.
Calling for financial support for the airport over its cripplingly high business rates bill of £116m, the highest in the UK, Uxbridge resident Ranjit Sihota said: “As someone with a family member who was made redundant from the airport, the response by the Prime Minister shows that he just doesn’t understand airport communities and what his own constituents are going through right now.”
In his emailed reply (see below) Mr Johnson refers to measures to help limit the impact of reduced airport activity due to Covid 19, however Mr Sihota added: “The amounts available are pitiful and will not prevent further job losses.”
According to a recent report by Oxford Economics, the collapse in air travel threatens over 60,000 local jobs.
In his reply the PM says: “Grants of up to £8m will be available to commercial airports in England and will be used to help with business rates in 2020-21. The money, which will also help ground handlers, will shore up jobs and reinforce local economies.”
However, Back Heathrow executive director, Parmjit Dhanda said although any kind of government support during the pandemic was welcome these measures ultimately failed the aviation industry – and Heathrow in particular.
“The business rates waiver scheme is capped for airports at £8m, but Heathrow has the largest single rates bill in Britain at £116m. These kinds of caps have not applied in other industries, and so are hitting communities like the PM’s constituency hardest.”
Mr Dhanda added: “ The massive pressure on airport jobs, with eight out of every ten flights cancelled, has left the community around Heathrow reeling. The budget has failed to live up to local and national expectations on aviation jobs.”
Uxbridge resident Oliwia Molinska, with family work connections to Heathrow, said: “The Prime Minister needs to realise that thousands of jobs in west London depend on Heathrow, including jobs in Uxbridge. We need a fair deal for local people. His response suggests he really doesn’t know what’s happening in his own patch.”
Prime Minister’s response
Thank you very much for contacting me about support for Heathrow Airport during the Covid-19 pandemic. I appreciate that this remains a very worrying time for Heathrow Airport staff and their families – many of whom live locally in Hillingdon.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in greater uncertainty over future demand (at least in the short/medium term) in the aviation sector and that this continues to have a knock-on effect on the operational requirements of airlines and airports.
I want to be clear that the Government recognises the importance of the aviation sector to the UK economy, and the effect that the coronavirus pandemic is having on the industry. Going forward, the Government is keen to work with the aviation sector in finding a stable and sustainable recovery.
As you will know, we have already made available an unprecedented package of economic support for the sector to support them during the current crisis. This includes the Job Retention Scheme which has now been extended until April 2021, business rates relief and tax deferrals.
While the decision to close our travel corridors will help prevent the spread of new Covid variants in the UK, the Government recognise the impact this will have on the aviation sector. In order to help limit this impact, the Aviation Minister has recently announced the opening of the Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme which will provide £100m to support airports in England, protecting jobs and giving airports the best chance of rebounding after coronavirus. Grants of up to £8m will be available to commercial airports in England and will be used to help with business rates in 2020-21.
The money, which will also help ground handlers, will shore up jobs and reinforce local economies. The Department of Transport has also established a Restart, Recovery and Engagement unit which is continuing to work alongside the aviation industry, including Heathrow Airport, on the immediate issues around restart as well as the sector’s longer-term growth and recovery.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Boris Johnson MP
There were high hopes for the Chancellor’s budget speech. His promise to do “whatever it takes, for as long as it takes” to support UK jobs and businesses is exactly what the aviation sector needed to hear.
His plans to extend the job retention scheme seemed to signal an appreciation that the economic crisis is far from over, so his failure to even mention aviation will be a huge disappointment to the 1m people who work in the sector and its supply chain and who will be feeling vulnerable after the budget.
The extension of support for jobs and training is welcome and the “Super-deduction” announced may help contractors to invest, but so much else was missing.
How can there be hope for a green economy without support for specifics like sustainable aviation fuel? The Chancellor projects growth of below 2% in the medium term – how could stronger growth be sustained unless aviation is thriving?
Heathrow is the UK’s biggest port by value and Global Britain cannot get off the ground without it – and a strong aviation sector. Support for aviation is essential if it is to help boost the economic recovery.
Aviation benefits almost every other sector – when it suffers, so do the jobs it sustains, as was underlined by parliamentary data published recently which shows unemployment rising around Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted at well over double the national rate.
The Chancellor’s failure to mention aviation at all is hugely disappointing. The only support offered is the existing Airports & Ground Operations Support Scheme, which offsets business rates, with a cap per airport of £8m – but Heathrow alone pays £120m per year.
Back Heathrow has long called for a 100% waiver of airport business rates as has been offered to other sectors. Local politicians of all parties support this but the Chancellor is not listening.
Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said: “The absence of any meaningful support from the Government will weaken the sector and limit UK growth at the time it is needed most.”
It is difficult to disagree. So come on Mr Sunak, you said: “Whatever it takes, for as long as it takes” – now it’s time to put your arms around aviation.