Protests by easyJet staff took place in Southend yesterday, following demonstrations in Newcastle yesterday. Tomorrow they are planning to protest at Stansted against proposed job losses at the airline.
easyJet staff today took part in the second three planned socially-distanced demonstrations at airports across the country over the airline’s plans to close operations at those locations and cut 1,290 cabin crew jobs.
The protests come after airline staff voted in favour of a no-confidence ballot in easyJet’s chief operating officer Peter Bellew. 99% of more than 3,000 Unite members who work for easyJet voted in favour of the no-confidence motion. BALPA held a similar ballot which also returned a near-unanimous vote of no-confidence in the chief executive.
Unite members are angry that, despite easyJet paying £174 million in shareholders dividends at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, their jobs and incomes are under threat. The airline has also secured a government-funded loan of £600 million but is still pressing ahead with the closure of operations at several airports and large-scale job losses.
As well as the proposed job losses and base closures, Unite members working for easyJet are also unhappy with Mr Bellew’s actions in:
- Misjudging the start of the coronavirus pandemic by dismissing the “hype going on around the virus” and encouraging “business as usual”
- Attempting a “smash and grab” of cabin crews’ pay and employment terms and conditions
- Trying to bypass trade unions Unite and BALPA by proposing “coronavirus co-operation agreements” directly to staff, who quickly rejected them
Unite have called on easyJet to stop the planned closures at Newcastle, Southend and Stansted airports and prevent the proposed job losses, while also urging the government to extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to help protect jobs in the aviation sector.
Unite regional officer Lindsey Olliver said: “Since Mr Bellew’s arrival at easyJet our members have become increasingly concerned by his actions. They genuinely fear for the longevity and reputation of easyJet with Mr Bellew in his current position. The airline’s crew wear their uniforms with pride, but they are losing faith in the company and feel undervalued and disrespected.
“During the pandemic, easyJet has made liberal use of taxpayer-funded support through the job retention scheme and a £600m loan as well as paying £174m in shareholder dividends. These redundancies will cause misery, add to the economic upheaval the country is experiencing and hurt regional connectivity.
“easyJet must halt these closures and redundancies but the government also has its part to play. It is absolutely essential that the job retention scheme is extended for the aviation sector, which has been one of the industries worst hit by the pandemic.
“The government’s ongoing failure to provide such sector-specific support is resulting in huge job losses throughout the industry and is threatening the viability of airlines and airports alike. It is directly responsible for encouraging airlines to make drastic cuts as a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
“The aviation industry is essential to the future prosperity of the UK’s economy and it is vital that the government steps up to the plate and provides specific support in line with other nations.”