Some unscrupulous companies have been using the current crisis as a smokescreen for rolling back previous agreements with their workforce, in some cases undoing settlements that took workers and their unions years to negotiate. The most obvious examples of this are EasyJet and British Airways. But workers are fighting back with trade unions seeing a surge in membership. Today I joined aviation workers on Westminster Green to highlight corporate attempts to slash jobs, pay and working conditions, which have been aided and abetted by this incompetent Government.
During the pandemic, companies receiving emergency government loans have continued to pay their wealthy shareholders, even as they lay off workers and push them onto worse contracts. EasyJet paid out £174 million in shareholder dividends (including £60m to founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou) just days before accepting a £600m loan from the Treasury. I criticised this at the time, writing to the Government and in the Independent. Companies should ask their shareholders for bailouts before turning to the taxpayer.
There’s also been no attempt to place binding environmental conditions on this money, which – coupled with a lack of green investment – seriously throws into doubt reaching our 2050 net-zero emissions target.
With the aviation sector on its knees, the government must course-correct and take action to protect jobs in the industry in the short-term and secure a long-term just transition. Any further government financial support for big companies must be conditional on support for jobs, a pause on dividends and compliance with environmental targets.
Find out more about EasyJet workers’ campaign here: https://orangeoutrage.co.uk