UK handlers ask for clarity over job retention scheme

By Damian Brett

Three of the UK’s main ground handlers have welcomed the government’s decision to extend its job retention scheme but are urgently seeking clarity about how the scheme’s implementation will change in August.

They argue that bringing forward to June some of the measures proposed for August, such as allowing staff to be part-time furloughed and part-time re-engaged in paid work, would provide crucial flexibility in the coming months of fragile and unpredictable demand.

This flexibility is made more urgent by the proposed introduction of a 14-day quarantine period, which might impact the desire of airlines to return to the skies, significantly impacting cargo loads and depressing the return of demand for other ground handling activity. 

In a joint statement, Jason Holt, chief executive of Swissport, Western Europe; Craig Smyth, chief executive of WFS; and Gary Morgan, chief executive of UK dnata, said: “We strongly welcome the Chancellor’s decision to extend the Job Retention Scheme to October, avoiding the immediate ‘cliff edge’ end that was approaching in May.

“However, we would welcome further clarity around the changes planned for the scheme in August, which have the potential to create another breaking point for our industry as we face an environment marked by fragile and unpredictable demand.

“This risk is worsened by the uncertainty around the proposed 14-day quarantine period, which might impact the desire of airlines to return to the skies.

“We are asking that furlough flexibility is brought forward from August 1 to June 1 and the three-week minimum furlough period removed. Allowing staff to be part-time furloughed and part-time re-engaged in paid work would provide crucial flexibility during this difficult period, helping to sustain employment and reduce costs for the Government in the long-term.”

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