The aviation minister has taken aim at airlines that have announced redundancy plans despite utilising the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Speaking during prime minister’s questions today (3 June), Kelly Tolhurst said if airlines and airports or other aviation organisations were continuing to find themselves in trouble because of coronavirus, and had exhausted the t relief measures already available to them, the government was prepared to enter into discussions with individual companies seeking bespoke support.
“We recognise that there remain serious problems for the aviation sector despite the measures,” said Tolhurst.
“It will take time for passenger numbers to recover and the impact will be felt first and foremost by the sector’s employees.”
She continued: “The recent announcement about redundancies from companies such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and easyJet will be very distressing news to staff.
“These are commercial decisions and they are decisions I regret, particularly from those benefiting from the Job Retention Scheme.
“The scheme was not designed for tax payers to fund the wages of employees only for those companies to put the same staff on notice of redundancy during the furlough period.”
She added later that it would be up to the treasury to man that.
Responding to concerns airlines were using the pandemic as opportunity to slash jobs and employment terms, Tolhurst said: “I certainly would not expect employers to use the pandemic to slash terms and conditions.
“Usually terms and conditions are a matter for employers and employees, but employers have access to recourse.
“In matters of crisis you would hope that all organisations taking these measures with their workforce would treat employees with social responsibility and I will be doing everything in my power to make sure that is understood by those organisations.”
She added later that those companies perceived to have treated staff badly by consumers may see a decline in custom for that reason.
Elsewhere, Tolhurst suggested the government may intervene on slots allocation.
Asked by transport select committee chairman Huw Merriman if slots will be transferred to airlines that are taking on workers, she said: “The government is legally prevented from intervening in the slots allocation process.
“However we want airport landing and take off slots to be used as effectively as possible for UK consumers as the UK aviation market recovers from the impact of this disease.
“I want to make sure the slots allocation process encourages competition and provides connectivity, so this is something I will be looking at.”