UK cross-party group to lobby for Covid funds in areas that depend on airports

A cross-party group of national and local politicians will this week lobby the government for emergency funds to tackle the impact of Covid-19 on workers whose livelihoods rely on airports.

The aviation industry has been identified as one of the business sectors hardest hit by the pandemic – costing the local economy of Hounslow, which neighbours Heathrow airport, a total of £1bn over three years, a study commissioned by the local council suggests.

Steve Curran, the Labour leader of Hounslow council, and Henry Smith, the Conservative MP for Crawley, which includes Gatwick airport, said their two constituencies “have the awful distinction of heading the national league tables for numbers furloughed and unemployed” and that “at the end of the summer 40% of our workforces were being supported by the state, [with] this number … likely to worsen.”

In an opinion piece shared with the Guardian, the politicians said: “In all, some 733,000 jobs in, and connected to, Britain’s international and regional airports, are at risk from a prolonged downturn in air traffic.

“Little mention is made of the support workers, among them the cleaners, mechanics, attendants, drivers, waiters, kitchen staff, who toil behind the scenes … Many of these jobs are low-skilled and pay low wages. Many of those who do them are from the younger and older age groups of the working population; many too, are from BAME communities. They’re likely to have difficulty in finding alternative suitable employment.”

Representatives of Hounslow and Crawley, plus other affected areas around UK airports, said they will meet on Tuesday “to assess the economic and social harm”, as well as to ask the government to establish an “aviation communities fund” to meet the immediate and longer-term needs of workers reliant on airports.

In July, Hounslow commissioned a study by the forecasting group Oxford Economics, which stated that 11,000 of the borough’s residents work in jobs directly linked to Heathrow out of a total workforce of about 150,000.

The research paper added that up to 43,000 jobs were associated with the airport’s “catalytic impact”.

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