UK Government Refuses To Act on Layoffs after Airline Bailouts

 - June 3, 2020, 12:57 PM

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.

UK aviation minister Kelly Tolhurst told the country’s parliament on Wednesday that British Airways and EasyJet should not be laying off workers who have been furloughed with their salaries paid by taxpayer funding. However, she claimed that the government can do nothing to stop the job losses and said that it has no plans to extend financial support to the struggling sector.

In an emergency debate, members of parliament (MPs), including many from the governing Conservative Party, demanded urgent action to support the UK aviation sector it deals with the financial fallout from the Covid-19 emergency that it says will be exacerbated by new quarantine rules applying to most travelers arriving in the country from June 8. Tolhurst said the government will not extend assistance such as support for furloughed staff, but added it might consider requests for “bespoke help” from individual companies who have “exhausted all other options.” She further said that the Department for Transport is starting an Aviation Restart and Recovery Unit to provide guidance for the industry.

Labour Party MP Wes Streeting accused the government of being “asleep at the wheel” and ignoring the need for sustained and comprehensive support for the aviation industry. At the same time, he demanded that bail out payments for companies should come with stronger conditions to protect jobs.

Conservative MP Huw Merriman demanded that British Airways should be forced to surrender slots at London Heathrow Airport. Tolhurst said she had no power to intervene in slot allocation rules, admitting that the government is essentially powerless to stop what she acknowledged were abuses of Covid-19 financial support for furloughs.