By Jenness Mitchell and Sharon Frew
A union is warning that the Scottish economy is facing a potential £325m loss following “critical blows” to the country’s aerospace engineering and civil aviation sectors.
Unite Scotland said the report – produced by Strathclyde University’s Fraser of Allander Institute – warns that nearly 5000 jobs are at risk.
The union, which commissioned the research, said the estimated 1500 direct job losses in civil aviation – including at companies such as Menzies Aviation and Swissport – will create a knock-on effect in the wider economy, leading to total job cuts of around 2330.
Unite said taking into account the knock-on effects on Gross Value Added (GVA), the redundancies would lead to a loss of around £140m to the Scottish economy.
The aerospace engineering sector is estimated to suffer an even bigger blow following a spate of redundancy consultations and voluntary severance schemes at Rolls Royce, GE Caledonian, Spirit Aerosystems and Wyman Gordon.
The total impact of the 1225 proposed job losses, including spillover effects, is associated with a £185m loss in GVA and a decrease in employment of 2530 across the Scottish economy.
Following the release of the report’s findings, Unite is calling on the UK and Scottish governments to take urgent measures and is repeating its demands for a comprehensive strategy and support package for both sectors.
Pat Rafferty, Unite Scottish secretary, said: “The findings in the Fraser of Allander Institute report commissioned by Unite into the critical blows our aerospace engineering and civil aviation sectors are enduring is eye-watering.
“Over the course of several months there is an estimated loss to the Scottish economy of £320m and nearly 5000 direct and indirect jobs are on the brink of being lost forever.
“This is the gravity of the situation facing both sectors and make no mistake about this both are on the cusp of terminal decline without immediate intervention from both the UK and Scottish governments.
“It’s essential that government gets all the key stakeholders in these sectors around the table immediately so that we can protect and save as many highly-skilled jobs as possible.”
In response, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We do not underestimate the scale of the global challenge affecting aviation and aerospace.
“Our immediate priority is providing assistance to workers who have lost their jobs, including through our initiative for responding to redundancy situations – Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) – which provides skills development and employability support, and aims to minimise the time people are out of work.
“We remain in close contact with the trades unions and support their calls for employees whose jobs are affected by this crisis to be treated fairly.”
As part of a £2.3bn package of business support, the Scottish Government said it has provided business rates relief for aviation, airports and ground handling providers – something that is not available in England or Wales.
The spokesperson added: “Nonetheless, challenges remain. We are working with industry on an aviation recovery plan, to help rebuild connectivity for business and tourism and win back routes and employment opportunities.
“Restoring connectivity to the levels we enjoyed in 2019 will take time but we will do all we can help airports rebuild connectivity and return to growth.
“To address the wider impacts on the aerospace sector, the minister for business, fair work and skills has been chairing the Aerospace Response Group, bringing together leaders from across industry, government and trades unions with the aim of safeguarding jobs and preserving Scotland’s aerospace manufacturing and research and development capability.”
‘I’m absolutely devastated’
Susan Scott, 49, has worked at Glasgow Airport as a passenger services agent for 23 years.
The mother of two, from Johnstone in Renfrewshire, finished her last shift on March 27 but says she never contemplated the possibility she may never return.
While she and her colleagues were on furlough, Ms Scott’s employer Swissport announced it is to cut half of its workforce.
A 45-day consultation is underway.
Ms Scott told STV News: “We’ve come through the ash cloud, 9/11 and the Glasgow Airport attack.
“We got through that as numbers of passengers all dropped then, but I never thought for a minute that we would have all these redundancies.
“I’m hoping and praying I will be one of the ones that will be asked to come back.
“I’m absolutely devastated as I love my job.
“I was in the garden the other week and it just hit me. I burst into tears at the thought of not going back to the airport.
“We are just waiting to hear. We have our lives to plan.
“We really need to know what is going on and whether we are being made redundant.”
Tiffany Reid, 24, is also employed by Swissport at Glasgow Airport and is currently on furlough.
She said: “I can honestly say there’s been a few nights that I’ve cried myself to sleep about what is happening.
“I’ve spent every single day of furlough worrying and panicking.
“I live with my mum and don’t know how I’ll manage to pay my bills or my car.
“I definitely had plans to work my way up through the aviation industry.
“I started off as a check-in agent and worked my way to a lead agent and thought I could go up the ladder from there, but now it feels like all my plans have gone to nothing.
“It’s absolutely terrifying.”
Darrin Patterson, 47, is employed by Menzies Aviation, which has also announced redundancies.
Mr Patterson has worked airside at Glasgow Airport for the last seven years. He is currently on furlough.
He said: “People feel let down and are struggling.
“Being on furlough has made it harder to get information.
“I know there are still a lot of people out there who don’t have the details they need to make a decision about their future.
“We have been told apply for the job or don’t.
“It’s a horrible decision to make. I worked out I could lose around £1000 a month.
“Once this consultation is over, I honestly don’t know what is going to happen next.”
In response, a Menzies Aviation spokesperson said: “As we rebuild Menzies from the significant impact of Covid-19 we are using a range of measures to bring staff back into the business at an appropriate rate.
“We have kept the Scottish Government informed as to the reasons why we are having to take these steps.
“We propose to introduce a new structure of multi-skilling to roles which will include standardised contract hours to enable efficient rosters to meet airline schedules as they begin to rebuild flight operations.
“This will involve bringing staff back on Menzies’ standard terms and conditions at both Glasgow and Edinburgh.
“For some staff on legacy contracts, the decision is not purely financial. We are asking them to change their ways of working as we synergise our business operations out of necessity.”
The company said the new structure will “support the business during this challenging period” and was key to rebuilding Menzies on a “sustainable and flexible footing”.
The spokesperson added: “These changes will allow us to become more competitive in the market going forward and will secure our position as well as that of our valued staff in both Edinburgh and Glasgow for the foreseeable future.
“We are communicating directly with our staff and with recognised trade unions throughout this process, and are currently involved in consultations regarding the proposed changes.”