Yesterday the “pipe-dream”, today the hard reality
Almost 100 jobs are to go at Exeter Airport, with the owner blaming the economic fallout from the coronavirus health crisis for changing the way it must operate.
A consultation has begun with workers employed in a wide range of roles, including baggage handlers, air traffic control, ground crew, security and the fire station. The process is likely to last several weeks.
It is understood that 96 jobs will go.
Parent company the Rigby Group, which owns the airport, says it needs to ensure the long term sustainability of its operation in the face of a new reality that commercial aviation will not recover to pre-Covid-19 levels for some time.
A spokesperson for Exeter Airport said: “The aviation industry is one of the hardest hit by travel restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and Exeter Airport is not immune.
“We, like every other airport in the UK, are working incredibly hard to realign our operational requirements against the new world emerging post-lockdown with a view to getting the airport restored as quickly as possible and we will fight to protect every job we can.”
The union which represents most of the workers in line for redundancy has called on bosses to work constructively to lessen the impact of job losses.
News of the cuts is the latest blow to the airport after the collapse of Exeter-based airline company Flybe. The firm, which accounted for 80 per cent of the airport’s passenger traffic, went into administration in March.
The Covid crisis also crippled the wider aviation industry with planes grounded and international travel cancelled. Many workers at the airport were furloughed as part of the Government’s Job Retention Scheme. The JRS is due to end in October.
Since Flybe’s demise the airport has announced some new daily flights. There are hopes, post Covid, that other airline operators will firm up plans to fly from Exeter.
There are also moves for a new ‘freeport’ to be centred on the site to boost the region’s economy after Brexit. If those plans materialise then many thousands of job could be created in the area.
John Stevenson, spokesman for Prospect the union, which represents most of those facing redundancy, said: “Our membership is going through a consultation now. We believe this is a hasty decision. The JRS and furloughing is still in place and will be to October.
“We are still awaiting significant information from the airport itself and call on them to fully engage and be more transparent in its future plans. The consultation is ongoing and we will be aiming to mitigate the number of redundancies and work with members to identify solutions to any job losses.”
He said the union thought it would be well into August before the consultation was concluded.