Coronavirus: Union bosses beg chancellor for aviation aid

Two of Britain’s most powerful trade union bosses have implored the chancellor to speed up access to the government’s emergency wage subsidy scheme or face the collapse of the ground handling companies that underpin the aviation sector.

Sky News has been passed a letter sent this week by Len McCluskey and Tim Roache, the general secretaries of Unite and the GMB respectively, along with the bosses of the industry’s major players, in which they warn that the “future of our collective businesses is under immediate threat”.

The chief executives of Dnata, Menzies Aviation, Swissport and Worldwide Flight Services have been collectively pleading for government support in recent weeks, but with few signs of an industry-wide support package materialising.

In their joint letter with the unions, they urged Rishi Sunak to provide clarity on the availability of funding from the coronavirus job retention scheme.

“We need access to the funds without delay,” they wrote.

“If access is delayed or there is a continued lack of transparency, we will be unable to pay our employees and our businesses will ultimately fail.

“Ninety percent of all passengers and cargo that fly into, around and out of the UK pass through our businesses, without urgent access to the job retention scheme funding we will not be able to support our businesses in the short term nor will we be around to support the aviation sector upturn just as soon as the crisis concludes.

“This would seriously hinder the recovery of the UK economy.”

The letter is a rare example of unions and company chief executives engaging in collective lobbying – which industry sources say underlines the gravity of the crisis facing a sector employing tens of thousands of people.

The ground-handling bosses also repeated a request for relief from business rates in a bid to aid their cash flows.

“These organisations do not seek a bailout or require handouts.

“We simply ask that your office expedites the introduction of the reimbursement process of the job retention scheme as swiftly as possible.”

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