Airport baggage handler Swissport is set to make 4,175 job cuts as pressure grows on the government to produce a financial package for the aviation industry.
Swissport said the coronavirus pandemic has “hit us hard” since the collapse of regional flyer Flybe in March.
GMB and Unite, which represent Swissport workers, described the redundancies as “devastating news”.
And they renewed their calls on the government to come up with a financial package for the aviation industry as a whole.
Individual airlines have secured government bailouts but GMB and Unite urged the government to step in on an industry-wide basis.
“This is devastating news. At least 4,000 workers – and possibly many more – will lose jobs which are essential to regional economies,” GMB national officer Nadine Houghton said.
“With Swissport now considering job cuts on this scale we have deep concerns about the viability of many of our regional airports and the benefits for regional connectivity that they bring.”
Oliver Richardson, Unite national officer, added: “We can’t wait any longer, the UK government needs to urgently intervene with a bespoke financial package and an extension of the 80 per cent furlough scheme for the aviation industry.
“Speed is of the essence if the government is to save thousands of aviation jobs and livelihoods. It’s not too late.”
Swissport’s UK and Ireland CEO Jason Holt said the coronavirus travel bans caused revenue to crash by 75 per cent by May.
“At its core, our business relies on a high volume of flights taking place. When aircraft aren’t flying, our source of revenue disappears,” he said.
“We are grateful for the help of government support schemes, which have allowed us to take the time to properly consider our position and do everything possible to work for solutions that will protect jobs.
“But we now must adapt to the unfortunate reality that there simply aren’t enough aircraft flying for our business to continue running as it did before Covid-19; and there won’t be for some time to come.
“It is with regret that today we are taking steps to reduce the size of Swissport’s workforce. Of our circa 8,500 Swissport employees, we expect upwards of 4,000 will leave us, comprising around 50 per cent of our workforce.
“I want to stress that this isn’t in any way a reflection on the dedication of our teams and the quality of their work. The situation we’re facing is one shared by the whole industry. These are very challenging existential times.
“This is a hard decision to make, but immeasurably harder for our colleagues to hear. But it’s an essential decision if we are to keep operating and to protect as many livelihoods as possible in the long run.”
Swissport told City A.M. it has not applied for bailout funds from the government, which has given £600m to Easyjet to keep flying.
But it said it has “been pressing for an aviation strategy from the government, and for business rates relief”.
More to follow.