Aviation job losses continue to mount

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The number of aviation jobs expected to be lost due to the coronavirus crisis continues to climb, with Virgin Atlantic, General Electric and Rolls-Royce among the latest organisations to warn of redundancies.

Yesterday (5 May), Virgin Atlantic announced it would cut more than 3,000 jobs in the UK – almost a third of its UK workforce – and close its operation at Gatwick airport.

It said redundancies would be made across the board as it attempted to secure an emergency loan from the government.

Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss said: “We have weathered many storms since our first flight 36 years ago but none has been as devastating as Covid-19 and the associated loss of life and livelihood for so many.

“After 9/11 and the global financial crisis, we took similar painful measures but fortunately many members of our team were back flying with us within a couple of years.

“Depending on how long the pandemic lasts and the period of time our planes are grounded for, hopefully the same will happen this time.”

The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) has written to chancellor Rishi Sunak to demand a “moratorium” on job losses in aviation.

Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton said: “UK aviation is facing a death spiral of retrenchment and cuts. Balpa will not stand by and watch the industry crumble or allow airlines to use this as a chance to make unfair redundancies or make unnecessary reductions to terms and conditions.

“The government needs to step in now not only with a package of support, but also to put a proper aviation plan in place, agreed by all stakeholders, to avoid opportunistic attacks on terms and conditions. In the meantime there should be no knee-jerk decisions and a moratorium on any job losses.”

Elsewhere in the aviation industry, parts manufacturer General Electric (GE) this week began a consultation on possible job losses at its site in Nantgarw, south Wales. Around 1,400 people are employed at the manufacturing plant.

GE, which makes engines for Boeing and Airbus, expected to cut up to a quarter of employees in its aviation workforce worldwide – around 13,000 jobs in total.

Meanwhile, it has  emerged that Rolls-Royce, which has 23,000 staff in the UK, could make up to 8,000 people redundant globally. It is expected to tell staff exactly how many jobs will be lost later this month.

Qatar Airways has also warned that would need to make “substantial” redundancies in light of falling demand for air travel, but it has not stated how many jobs it expects will be lost.

“The truth is, we simply cannot sustain the current staff numbers and will need to make a substantial number of jobs redundant – inclusive of cabin crew,” chief executive Akbar Al Baker said in a memo to staff.

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