THE UNITE union, has accused Blue Handling at Stansted, which provides services to Ryanair, of cruelly sacking over a hundred workers instead of using the government’s job retention scheme.
In March, the company wrote to 110 staff to terminate their contracts and a second letter was sent out confirming they would not be furloughed.
Unite regional officer Mark Barter said: ‘Unite has been working with the company to find ways to minimise any potential costs. The union has made a number of proposals but their employer ABM has decided not to do the right thing for their former employees.
‘Instead of using the government’s job retention scheme to furlough the workers, management callously sacked staff in the middle of a pandemic to minimise costs, causing their families extreme distress. This decision goes completely against the purpose of the government’s Job Retention Scheme.
‘The Stansted branch of Unite are demanding that Blue Handling rehire these workers and take advantage of the government’s scheme without delay. Our momentum at grass roots level to oppose ABM’s decision is growing considerably.
‘This demonstrates why the government needs to change the law so that employees can claim unfair dismissal from day one rather than having to suffer insecurity and exploitation for two years before having any employment protection.’
Blue Handling was set up by Ryanair and OmniServ in February 2019 to provide ground services to Ryanair at Stansted. OmniServ became ABM Aviation UK Limited on 23rd January 2020. The company provides services including, check-in, baggage handling, and runway services.
The workers have created a petition calling on ABM management to reinstate the workers and place them on furlough.
- Construction workers at Manchester Airport have been ‘left high and dry, without pay’, by the construction company JCK and the Airport during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Greater Manchester’s ten councils, which have a 64.5 per cent stake in the airport, are providing a £250 million package to support the airport but have so far failed to intervene on behalf of the struggling workers.
Unite is calling on Manchester Airport Group (MAG) to use its influence to ensure the 70 skilled workers get financial support.
The union has also approached the Greater Manchester Councils which have a major stake in the airport, but the stakeholders are disgracefully abdicating responsibility for the workers. The only investor to have expressed any concern for the welfare of the workers is IFM, an Australian investment fund.
The construction of the Terminal 2 baggage handling system by Vanderlande was shut for safety reasons linked to the coronavirus in late March. However, the mechanical engineers’ and skilled electricians’ precarious employment status means they are unable to access the government’s Covid-19 schemes and face genuine hardship with both the sub-contractor JCK and Manchester Airport washing their hands of responsibility.
One worker was even sacked from his job on the site after raising an issue related to Covid-19. His manager issued an angry WhatsApp message swearing and threatening the worker. Workers allege his treatment has created a culture of fear on the site leaving workers frightened to raise legitimate concerns.
Unite regional coordinating officer Andy Fisher said: ‘Dozens of skilled construction workers were left high and dry, without pay. Workers allege they have been threatened and abused and one was even sacked for raising concerns about Covid -19.
‘It’s clear there is money available and it’s disgraceful that Manchester Airport, its council stakeholders and the contractors let these workers fall into hardship.
‘When Unite raised the workers’ treatment, the Airport’s Australian investor thousands of miles away expressed its concerns, but closer to home Greater Manchester’s councils have done nothing.
‘Many of the workers have been out of work for six weeks and while some workers have returned to the site, JCK is actively preventing the union from carrying out safety inspections.
‘The treatment of these skilled workers is unacceptable, and we urge Manchester Airport Group and its stakeholders to meet with us to ensure this situation is resolved urgently.’
- The Giant agency has been accused of ‘bad faith’ after appearing to renege on a promise to furlough about 300 workers working on Rolls-Royce contracts in Derby and Washington in the north east – which means they have not been paid for a month.
The Unite union, said that Giant had promised on 17 April that the workers would be furloughed under the government job retention scheme (JRS) which means that they would receive at least 80 per cent of their pay.
But Unite said its members had not received a penny in the last month which had left them in dire financial straits and that confusion reigns with mixed messages from the company over the progress or not of the JRS application.
The union estimates that about 270 workers were on the Derby contract and 27 at Washington.
Unite regional coordinator Suzanne Reid, who represents members on assignments at Rolls Royce Washington, said: ‘Giant agency workers have been left in the worst possible predicament – they have not received any wages for well over a month which is causing financial hardship for their families and impacting on their mental health.
‘We have had mixed messages from the company over whether the JRS application is being progressed or not. It appears that they could be reneging on what was agreed in mid-April.’
Unite officer with responsibility for Rolls-Royce in Derby Tony Tinley said: ‘Both ethically and morally, Giant should be accessing all monies available to ensure employees receive pay. We urge Giant to do the right thing – otherwise, it is guilty of bad faith, as the agency promised in April that the workers would be furloughed, after work finished for them at the end of March.’
Washington & Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson, said: ‘I am bitterly disappointed that Giant have failed to ensure their employees receive the financial support they are entitled to.
As our country faces the biggest challenge in peacetime, it is unforgivable that companies are placing their workers in such financial difficulty.
‘Alongside Unite, I have been contacting Giant on behalf of several constituents of mine for weeks, asking them to do the right thing and providing them with clear guidance from the government. This delay and obfuscation cannot continue.’
- DUP MPs have suggested the government’s job retention scheme should be extended for airport ground staff to allow the aviation sector more time to recover.
In a letter to the Chancellor the MPs say if it ends in June, ground handling firms would have to lay off most staff. That would make it more difficult for Northern Ireland to restart air routes.
Airports and airlines are grappling with how to reopen and work safely but are likely to be operating at reduced levels of capacity for some time.
The MPs say: ‘The combination of the time taken for the airline industry to pick up and the cost of holding on to staff while no revenue is being earned had the real potential to put these firms out of business.
‘Without their input the challenge of having the ability to speed the national recovery will be much greater.’
The MPs suggest the job retention scheme could be extended for some industries into October.
They also suggest the level of payments could be tapered as staff gradually increase the hours they work.
The Treasury is considering what to do with the job retention scheme which has saved millions of workers from redundancy but at significant cost.
The first month of the scheme is estimated to have cost £8bn.
On Monday, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, told employers there would be no ‘cliff edge’ when the initial version of the scheme expires at the end of June.
He said he was working to find ‘the most effective way to wind down the scheme and ease people back into work in an effective way’.
However, he said the same level of support could not continue: ‘Some scenarios have suggested we are potentially spending as much on the furlough scheme as we do on the NHS, for example. Now clearly that is not a sustainable situation.’