We know many businesses have been hit extremely hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and, as more data emerges, the extent of the impact of Covid-19 on certain industries and the potential for extensive job losses is becoming clearer.
Sadly, this includes aerospace, a sector of major importance locally here in Central Ayrshire, which is having to absorb the knock-on impact of the global downturn in international travel and aviation.
Early on in the crisis, I was in contact with a number of the companies based at the Prestwick aerospace campus to discuss the situation at their particular facility. It was clear they were all working hard to sustain their business whilst trying to avoid redundancies, or at least keep them to a minimum, and to achieve these through voluntary rather than compulsory means where possible.
Since April, I have been lobbying the UK Government for a sector specific package of support for aviation and aerospace, given that the aviation industry will not fully recover for some years. As well as writing to the Chancellor, both individually and collectively as part of the APPG on Aerospace, I have raised the issue during Parliamentary Questions with both the Transport Minister and the Prime Minster. Whilst the industry undoubtedly needs financial support to help protect jobs, I believe we should take the opportunity to do so by investing in a green aviation recovery. Encouraging airlines to replace older aircraft with newer, greener models would not only help secure aerospace manufacturing but contribute to a more ecologically sustainable aviation industry going forward. A copy of the letter sent by the APPG can be viewed at: https://generalaviationappg.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Airports-Covid-19-Letter-2020.pdf
Furthermore, I have put my name to a number of other campaigns to protect the aviation and aerospace sectors here in the constituency. In support of British Airway’s staff, I signed the Early Day Motion in Parliament, sponsored by my colleague Neil Gray, which calls on British Airways (and other airlines) not to use the covid-19 outbreak as an opportunity to reduce jobs and employees’ terms and conditions. You can find the Early Day Motion at: https://memberhub.parliament.uk/earlyDayMotions/EarlyDayMotion/View?edmId=56904&urlBase64Redirect=aHR0cHM6Ly9tZW1iZXJodWIucGFybGlhbWVudC51ay9FYXJseURheU1vdGlvbnMvRWFybHlEYXlNb3Rpb25TZWFyY2gjIS9TZWFyY2g_bWVtYmVySWQ9NDM2NSZjdXJyZW50U2Vzc2lvbj0xJm9yZGVyQnk9NyZwYWdlPTE
In addition, I am also fully supportive of my colleague, Gavin Newland’s, proposed Employment (Dismissal and Re-employment) Bill which, in response to the actions of BA and others, aims to amend employment law to prevent firms threatening staff with the sack if they do not sign up for lower wages and poorer working conditions, by making such actions a form of unfair dismissal. You can find the bill at: https://services.parliament.uk/Bills/2019-21/employmentdismissalandreemployment.html
I am also supporting several campaigns seeking to protect people facing difficulties receiving refunds from the aviation sector due to cancelled flights and have co-written to the UK Government to intervene to ensure that the travel industry provides timely refunds as they are required by law for package holidays and flight cancellations.
Many industries and many business have suffered greatly due to the pandemic and some will take longer to recover than others, and we must ensure support is provided to ensure their long-term and not just their short-term sustainability. The aerospace industry has been hugely important to the Ayrshire economy for many years and will continue to be going forward but we must, at all levels of government, work together to keep it as buoyant as possible during this downturn.