Aviation unions have warned the Scottish Government that “doing nothing is not an option” amid the threat of airport job cuts with the end of the furlough scheme.
Joint trade union representatives – including GMB and Unite – are to meet with the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Transport on Thursday afternoon to table proposals for sustaining employment.
The move comes just days before the UK Government’s job retention scheme (JRS) is replaced by the job support scheme (JSS).
GMB Scotland organiser Bob Deavy said: “The Scottish Government has said the UK Government must do more, they are right, but it also means they must drop their own ambiguities that could help the sector recover post-Covid-19, like support for a Heathrow third runway and the jobs and connectivity boost this would give Scotland.
“Our members need to know the Scottish Government is on their side in the immediate fight for jobs but also in the fight for the future of a sustainable aviation sector – it can’t be left to the UK Government alone to decide their fate and we need an interdependent approach.”
Unite Scotland industrial officer Pat McIlvogue said: “The aviation sector is teetering on the brink and doing nothing is not an option for thousands of workers and their families across Scotland who depend on their airport jobs.
“The imminent end of the furlough scheme is another cliff-edge moment for aviation jobs, there will be pain but there is still hope for the sector and we want the Scottish Government to meaningfully engage with our members in line with its own fair work principles.”
Research commissioned by Unite Scotland found the change to JSS could impact over 2,300 direct and indirect jobs dependent on aviation with a loss of £140 million to the Scottish economy.
Cabinet Secretary Michael Matheson MSP told parliament last month the Scottish Government were “committed to exploring immediate support measures for the (aviation) industry”.
The Scottish Government has repeatedly argued that extending JRS would help reduce unemployment across the country.
Measures such as the 14-quarantine rules for some travellers have been said to have badly impacted the tourism and travel industry, although they were introduced to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Responding to the union comments, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “Over the past few months, the Scottish Government has worked with the aviation sector to provide support where we can.
“The single most impactful action to maintain jobs and put the industry in a position where it can support our economic recovery from Covid-19 would be for the UK Government to intervene to offer short-term financial relief through the coming winter months.
“We have repeatedly called on the UK Government to extend the job retention scheme for the industry, or to deliver a targeted alternative.
“Over the past six months, we have maintained a dialogue with the Scottish aviation sector and the Scottish Trades Union Congress to discuss short-term measures that we can take with the powers that are available to us, and the long-term support with which we can help the sector return to growth.
“Those discussions have been very constructive and, by use of the powers available to us, specific actions have been delivered or are under way.”
He added: “As part of our £2.3 billion package of business support, we have provided business rates relief in 2020-21.
“That measure, which is not replicated in England and Wales, benefits all Scotland’s airports, ground handling companies and Loganair.
“Airports have asked us to engage with them on options for testing passengers arriving from overseas, and we are already doing so.
“We recognise the effect that quarantine restrictions have, in Scotland and elsewhere, on the propensity to travel and on airlines’ decisions about which routes to operate.
“However, we are also clear that we have to mitigate the risk of importing Covid-19 cases, and the current 14-day self-isolation requirement is the most effective way to do that.”