Over the last 6 months, the union has worked tirelessly on behalf of members who have faced, and continue to face unprecedented challenges in their aviation careers. It is impossible not to have a certain degree of understanding and sympathy for employers in any industry, but aviation has been hit hard and, as we predicted, is going to be one of the last sectors of the UK economy to pick up. Despite this situation, employers in the UK aviation industry must be held accountable for decisions that they make that affect their pilot workforce. Redundancies must be genuine redundancies, cost saving measures must be to protect the viability of the business, and not to afford investors greater dividends. Employers must follow not only a process, but a fair process if they are to avoid unfair dismissal claims. We have already lodged claims on behalf of IPA members in relation to employers failings. We expect this to increase as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) winds down. On that note, the end of the CJRS does not give employers an automatic right to make redundancies once government support ceases. Employers will have to make a valid business case for dismissing employees.
For the aviation sector, its recovery is a moving target. Office workers are encouraged to return to the office, schools are open (albeit with staggered, or shorter days to provide a safe environment for children and teachers), restrictions are eased for visitor attractions, yet those wishing to travel are faced with indefinite uncertainty. The lack of a specific plan, or even guidance to rebuild this crucial sector to the UK economy is preventing airlines and operators from being able to make any clear and coherent plans. It is not the industry that is preventing passenger numbers, in the view of the writer it isn’t even a lack of consumer confidence in the airlines, it is the uncertainty around making travel plans caused by a lack of drive at government level to provide specific help to this sector. Many who have chosen to fly for a well deserved holiday have commented on how safe they feel whilst abroad, and the clear instruction that both tourists and locals have with regard to use of PPE and social distancing guidelines.
Even back in June, the parliamentary report into the impact of coronavirus in the aviation sector stated –
The aviation sector is of huge strategic and economic importance to the UK. The drastic reduction in air travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic has been devastating for the industry. Finding a proportionate way to steadily resume the number of flights while minimising the spread of coronavirus must be a priority for the UK Government. In reality, the recovery of the industry has not been a priority, despite the Secretary of State for Transport’s own European holiday in July. We have advised members to write to their local MP, and we would encourage members to write, putting pressure on those accountable to not sit back and watch the demise of a sector that in some areas of the UK provides the overwhelming majority of income to its residents.
If members have any suggestions as to further action the IPA can take in supporting its members, please do not hesitate to contact us.