A cross-party group of more than 70 parliamentarians have come together to call for an extension to the furlough scheme for workers in the travel, tourism and aviation sectors.
The call has been led by MP for Crawley Henry Smith, chair of the all-party parliamentary group for the future of aviation, who said extending furlough beyond September to March 2022 would prevent "significant job losses".
Citing figures from the Office for National Statistics, the group claims 57% of passenger air transport employees remain on furlough, alongside 51% of their travel sector colleagues working in agencies and at tour operators.
The group, which features former ministers Esther McVey, Steve Baker, Tobias Ellwood and chair of the foreign affairs select committee Tom Tugendhat, has written to chancellor Rishi Sunak urging him to act.
Starting this month, the furlough scheme has been tapered, with employers having to cover an additional 10% of furloughed employees wages, rising to 20% in August and September before the scheme ends.
"With aviation, travel and tourism still subject to the most restrictive international travel restrictions in Europe, the removal of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme [furlough] would come as a devastating blow to an industry that has borne the brunt of the pandemic," said Smith.
"They were the first industry to be hit by the consequences of Covid-19 and will most likely be the last to recover and without continuing employment support it is inevitable that we will see significant job losses that will only further delay our ability to bounce back and rebuild our economy.
"The recovery of our aviation, travel and tourism industry is being held back by the UK’s approach to international travel and as such they have an obligation to and must protect these jobs until restrictions are removed or risk the significant damage that the removal of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will cause.
"The chancellor deserves credit for protecting jobs during the pandemic, but that protection remains needed and furlough must be kept for the aviation, travel and tourism industries."
The full letter reads:
We are writing to you as a group of cross-party MPs and peers to urge you to extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for workers in the aviation, travel and tourism industries until March 2022 in order to prevent significant job losses when the scheme is due to close in September.
As you will know, our aviation, travel and tourism sectors were the first to be impacted as a consequence of Covid-19, with passenger numbers collapsing from March 2020 and with recovery likely to take a number of years, these will also be one of the last sectors to recover.
The consequences on our aviation, travel and tourism sectors have been devastating, with businesses seeing little or no revenue for over fifteen months, significant job losses and the risk of business failure remaining a real risk.
However, with the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme due to close in September, we run the very real risk of a major jobs crisis in the industry. The latest ONS statistics show that 57% of employees in passenger air transport and 51% of those employed by travel agency and tour operators remain on furlough.
With a lost summer season coming on top of the worst 15 months in the history of UK aviation, without the continuing support of the CJRS the risk of significant redundancies will become a stark and devastating reality.
Throughout the pandemic, the increase in unemployment in airport constituencies has been consistently higher than the national average putting strain on local economies. But we must not forget that our aviation, travel and tourism industries are major economic enablers locally, regionally and nationally and that a failure to protect jobs will impact our national recovery.
We must express the urgency and the importance of extending the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, without which we will see further job losses and business failure. As one of the few sectors remaining under significant restrictions the case for further support is irrefutable and we urge you to not only extend the scheme but to work with industry to provide further much needed financial support.