Close to 200 workers at Luton airport could lose their jobs as Menzies Aviation looks to reduce its workforce by about a half.

Menzies currently employs 374 workers at Luton in roles including baggage handling, ramp agents, bus drivers and customer service positions.

Union Unite said the company is looking to axe 176 jobs as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on the travel industry.

Many have been furloughed but the scheme finishes at the end of October.

Unite has warned the ‘floodgates’ will open on redundancies unless the government modified the jobs retention scheme.

The union also says that despite the company planning to reduce staffing levels by 60% overall there are currently no proposals to make any management roles redundant.

While the company is seeking volunteers for redundancy it is not offering any enhanced terms, which will almost certainly result in a large number of compulsory redundancies, said Unite, which is due to enter negotiations with Menzies.

Regional officer Jeff Hodge said: “Unite warned that September 16 would be a grim day for workers unless the government signalled that further jobs assistance was on its way.

“They did not and as a result around half of the Menzies workforce at Luton airport will lose their jobs.

“This is not just a hammer blow for the workers affected but for Luton itself as the sheer level of job losses at the airport is having a terrible effect on the local economy.

“The real villains are the government who first promised to provide specific support to the aviation industry in March. The promised and vitally needed support has failed to materialise.

“With the end of furlough fast approaching aviation companies, which have been the sector worst affected by the pandemic, are looking over a cliff edge and as a result job losses are increasing.

“The aviation industry is viable once Covid-19 is under control but the industry cannot bounce back if it continues to lose jobs like these.

“The bottom line is that workers should not be paying with their jobs.”

Together with the TUC and all aviation unions, Unite is calling for the government to undertake the economic and fiscal measures needed to support the sector, including:

  • The extension of, and modifications to, the coronavirus job retention scheme to protect employment in the aviation sector
  • Suspension of air passenger duty
  • Public service obligation routes to ensure regional connectivity
  • Business rate relief for airports (as in Scotland and Northern Ireland)
  • Extending the period of repayment of loans to aviation companies beyond the current two year maximum