Press Release – 16 June 2020

Luton North MP Sarah Owen to government: It’s not too late to save thousands of airline jobs in Luton

Following pleas from airline workers in the town, Luton North MP Sarah Owen has today demanded urgent action from government to protect the aviation industry, as a new report released last week warned that 70,000 jobs at the airlines and in the wider supply chain could be lost across the country. Troubled Luton-based airline easyJet has already announced a planned 4,500 redundancies nationally.

In a letter to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Ms Owen urged the government to put political differences aside and listen to the cross-party calls for urgent action, asking that they put in place a support package for the aviation sector. Airlines are facing an unprecedented crisis following a collapse in passenger numbers due to coronavirus.

A new report released last week by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) warned of up to 70,000 job losses nationally in the wider airline supply chain – including engineering, catering and duty free shopping – even just before the end of the summer if urgent action was not taken by government.

She laid out a plan to attach conditions to any bailout, including assurances that: jobs and salaries are protected, with a commitment to workers’ rights; any company in receipt of public money must ensure their tax base is in the UK; no dividends should be paid until the company is proven to be commercially viable; there is a commitment to pay UK based suppliers as a priority; and there is a clear commitment to tackling climate change and for the industry to use cleaner fuels and other cutting-edge low or zero emission technologies.

Following passenger anger at cancelled flights leaving them out of pocket, Owen also demanded that the government take action to ensure that all airlines fully comply, without delay, with all consumer right regulations – particularly with regards to giving full refunds. Further suggestions included an extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) for airline workers beyond its planned October end date, to save many staff from redundancy, allowing time for the sector to begin its recovery later in the year.

1.6 million jobs depend on the UK’s aviation sector. easyJet alone currently employs around 2,700 people in Luton including 350 pilots, 650 cabin crew, 300 in engineering and maintenance and the remaining 1,400 office and management staff. Around 25% of the company’s total workforce live in Luton itself.

Calls for action from the government continue to grow as Virgin Atlantic, Ryan Air and British Airways have all also announced job cuts in recent weeks.

Labour MP for Luton North Sarah Owen commented:

“We were promised that the government would do ‘whatever it takes’ to protect the economy through this pandemic. We cannot underestimate the damage we’ll see to our Luton’s economy if urgent action isn’t taken now to defend airline jobs.”

“Luton can’t afford for the government to sit back and let this crisis unfold for the airlines. My mail bag is full of airline workers very rightly telling me the same thing: the government needs to take action now.”

“I’m not trying to score political points. The government has taken unprecedented measures over the last few months, including introducing the furlough scheme which has kept money in the pockets of over 25,000 people in Luton, and I join people in thanking them for that. However, the aviation industry is facing an even deeper crisis that other parts of the economy and thousands of Luton jobs are now on the line.”

“I’ve spent the last few weeks meeting virtually with trade unions, airline bosses, and the airport to find out what action is needed to protect and defend as many jobs as possible.”

“I’ll do whatever it takes, and work with whoever it takes to protect the jobs of the people I represent. Time is running out, but it’s not too late to save thousands of airline jobs.”