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Wednesday, 19 September, 2001, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Unions plead for UK airline aid
BA aircraft
British Airways has frozen recruitment
UK union leaders are to meet Transport Secretary Stephen Byers to plead for state support for the airline and aerospace industry.

With government assistance, carriers should be able to stave off the kind of mass job cuts being announced by US rivals, union chiefs have said.

State help would also prevent companies disguising pre-existing plans to sack staff as simply a reaction to last week's attacks on the US, unions believe.

On Tuesday, US aerospace giant Boeing announced the axing of cutting 30,000 jobs, ahead of a slump forecast for the aviation industry following the atrocities.

And a range of US airlines have said they will sack staff and mothball jets, with some carriers warning of bankruptcy risks.

Airline cutbacks

Continental has cut 25% of its flights and is giving 12,000 staff a leave of absence.

In the UK, only Virgin has so far announced cuts, saying that one sixth of its jet fleet is being put out of action, and that 1,200 jobs are to go.

Airlines in Britain are facing the possibility of widespread job cuts as a result of increased costs for security, lower demand for flights and the knock-on effect of cancelled flights in recent days.

An announcement from British Airways, which has already introduced a recruitment freeze, is expected on Thursday.


A spokesman for the Manufacturing, Science and Finance (MSF) said the union was, with the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, working with UK aerospace firm BAE Systems and the European Airbus consortium.

"The companies have responded very positively," he told BBC News Online.

"We are all seeking to get the government's promise of help."

But he warned that the talk of mass job cuts was premature.

"If there is belt tightening then given the circumstances we can certainly absorb that," he said.

"But it needs to be put in the context of the current situation."


Some observers believe that a downturn in passenger numbers since the attacks on the US has given airlines the opportunity to launch a cutbacks cover-up.

Airlines have been able to pin the blame for job cuts on problems stemming from the atrocities, rather than long-term troubles besetting the industry, and any strategic errors.

Some airlines have opposed the relief suggested for the big "flag carrier" airlines such as like British Airways.

Chiefs at some smaller, budget airlines, including Ryanair and EasyJet have voiced complaints that direct aid relief would amount to unfair assistance to leading players.

The low-cost carriers have said any help should come in a form such as reductions of airport or fuel taxes, which would benefit the whole industry.

See also:

15 Sep 01 | Europe
Europe reviews aircraft safety
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