It is tragic that Uttlesford saw the number of people claiming unemployment benefit rising 106 per cent in April to 1,345.
About 650 people have been forced onto the dole due to the lockdown’s effect on local employers. It is just a glimpse of the future with the crash in the aviation industry when the furlough scheme is wound back and hundreds more local workers are pushed into unemployment.
Ryanair, which has a UK base at Stansted Airport, is planning to cut up to 3,000 jobs – mostly pilot and cabin crew. Unpaid leave and pay will be slashed by up to 20%, until demand for air travel recovers.
EasyJet is cutting its workforce by 4,500 – 30% of its workforce – which will threaten hundreds of jobs at Stansted.
Baggage handling company contractor ABM is intending to make 200 local workers redundant and remaining staff will be expected to accept a 15% reduction in wages – some will be pushed into absolute penury.
Trade unions are stepping up to the mark to fight the threats to local workers, but the district council has said nothing.
Uttlesford District Council’s £1.66mn strategic investment fund was set up to support local employment. The “Residents for Uttlesford Party” administration has diverted it to fighting the airport in any future legal challenge by the airport against the council’s rejection of an increase in passenger numbers. This is a total betrayal of the fund’s objectives.
At a time when a job-supporting fund is crucial, UDC is abandoning workers and continuing a crusade that it had already won.
It is doubtful that passenger numbers will return to pre-pandemic levels over the next five to 10 years – if ever – and the airport’s owners are unlikely to push for it when they are faced with a far bigger existential crisis.
UDC needs to move on and work out how it can support aviation sector workers, rather than fighting their employers in a battle that is already over.