LONDON – Staff from UK low-cost carrier easyJet (U2) will protest again today over the proposed base closures.

The bases of Southend (SEN), Newcastle (NCL) and London Stansted (STN) will affect over 1,200 cabin crew jobs.

Protests will take place at Southend Airport.

Anxiety is intensifying after Stobart Air (RE) announced its base will close.

Members at the Unite union have expressed significant anger over these decisions.

Such understanding is around U2 paying £174m in dividends to shareholders at the start of the crisis.

easyJet procession. Photo: easyJet.

Controversial Motions

The airline has taken a lot of measures during this pandemic, which may not have been popular to staff.

For example, the airline deferred deliveries on orders of Airbus aircraft to 2025.

Those working in the airline have called for the deal to be scrapped, including founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou.

This resulted in lawsuits threatened by the founder.

Motions of no confidence were called by Pilots to oust airline COO Peter Bellew.

easyjet A320-214 taxing for take off at Naples International Airport (NAP). Photo: Salvatore Michelini – @salv.mike_aviation

Government Pressured

The likes of Unite have been looking beyond individual airline cuts as a whole.

The union is calling on the UK Government to take on the economic and fiscal measures to help the industry.

More protests are due to take place as well today over this at London Heathrow (LHR) and Stansted.

Bristol Airport (BRS) will also see protests, pressuring MP Liam Fox over the job cuts that may take place there.

Some of the main points included:

  • Extension of the job retention scheme to give further protections to those in the aviation industry.
  • Immediate suspension of Air Passenger Duty.
  • Invest more into Public Service Obligation (PSO) routes, which bankrupted carrier Flybe operated.
  • Business tax relief for airports, like in Scotland and Northern Ireland already.
  • Extending repayment of loans to aviation companies beyond the two-year maximum.
Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5C. | Photo: © David Dyson

Unite’s Comments

Airways approached the Unite union for a comment into these events.

On the protests at Southend Airport, the union stated that this is a “kick in the teeth to employees, passengers, and three vital regional airports.”

“Supporters and easyJet staff will stage a protest at Southend airport to expose the misery this closure will cause workers and passengers, as well as the harm is will do to the regional economy and connectivity”, said Unite Regional Officer Lindsey Olliver.

“The decision to close its operations at Southend is a kick in the teeth to loyal employees, passengers and this vital regional airport.”

“We are holding this demonstration to try to bring easyJet to its senses and think beyond the short-term because air travel will come back.”

“There is a future for the company at Southend airport if it chooses to make one.”

“But as the aviation industry is essential to the future prosperity of the UK’s economy, it is also imperative that the government steps up to the plate and provides sector-specific support in line with other nations.”

“Such support was promised way back in March but with every day’s delay, jobs and services are disappearing.  It must act on its promise and do so now.”

Photo: Mark Harkin

Government Must Do More

On UK government pressure, Unite pleaded with the current Chancellor Rishi Sunak for additional support.

“Aviation workers are pleading with the chancellor to keep the promise he made in March and provide support for the sector.”

“They have now been waiting for months and hundreds of jobs across the region have been lost as a result.”

“The aviation industry is a major part of the economy in London and the South East but faces devastation without immediate government support, hurting workers, communities and businesses alike.”

“The delay is inexcusable, especially given the prompt actions of other countries to support their aviation industries.”

“Unite is also calling for employers not to hollow out their operations in response to a temporary downturn.”

“Unite has been successful in working with companies such as Ryanair to prevent redundancies through temporary tiered pay reductions and job pooling and we urge other companies to do the same.”  

Job Retention Scheme

Overall, the pressure doesn’t remain with U2, but also on the UK Government to do more for the sector.

Reform to the Job Retention Scheme could be needed, like that with the CARES Act in the United States.

It is evident that the scheme was not strict enough on job cuts, and going forward, the Chancellor may have to address this.

However, only time will tell, and we will see how the government intervenes.

Featured Image: easyJet Airbus A320neo. Photo: Airbus