Coronavirus: Aviation workers protest at Belfast International

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Unite regional officer George Brash said aviation workers were “hugely frustrated”

Aviation workers have held a demonstration at Belfast International Airport calling on Westminster and Stormont to help save jobs.

The protestors were joined by three MPs – Paul Girvan and Sammy Wilson of the DUP and Alliance’s Stephen Farry.

The Keep Northern Ireland Connected – Save Our Airports demonstration was part of a UK-wide campaign.

The Unite union has accused Chancellor Rishi Sunak of breaking a promise to help the aviation industry.

Three months of lockdown and ongoing restrictions over travel in efforts to stem the spread of Covid-19 have left the industry in what union says is an “unprecedented crisis”.

‘Dithering and delay’

Unite regional officer George Brash said workers were “hugely frustrated”.

“Aviation in Northern Ireland is facing a tsunami of redundancies,” he said.

“In March, Rishi Sunak promised a package to save aviation and he has not fulfilled that promise so this is a national demonstration but for Northern Ireland in particular, this is massive to safeguard jobs and it is massive to save regional connectivity to Northern Ireland.”

He added the demonstration was only the start of the union’s campaign for Stormont to take action to safeguard airports, and protect regional connectivity and workers’ jobs.

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DUP MPs Paul Girvan and Sammy Wilson in discussion with Unite’s George Brash

“There has been dithering and delay from Stormont, and there has been dithering and delay from Westminster,” he said.

“What we are asking for local politicians to do is put pressure on Rishi Sunak to fulfil the promises he made.”

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Mr Girvan said the DUP had been using whatever influence it had at Westminster to highlight the plight of the aviation industry.

The MP, who represents South Antrim where Belfast International Airport is located, said he did not feel the hub had been treated fairly.

“The international airport plays a key role in the overall Northern Ireland economy and the growth of our economy is dependent on having connectivity with the rest of the outside world,” he said.

“A small pocket of funding was given to the Northern Ireland Executive, and Belfast City Airport and the City of Derry Airport received some of that money but the international airport to date has received nothing.

“It is vital that we do have a fund which is going to support and sustain what we have here, which is a jewel in the crown of Northern Ireland.”

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