Coronavirus: Job scheme ‘should be extended for airport staff’

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MPs say if the scheme ends in June, ground handling firms would have to lay off most staff

DUP MPs have suggested the government’s job retention scheme should be extended for airport ground staff to allow the aviation sector more time to recover.

The scheme, which allows companies to keep staff at home with the government paying 80% of normal wages, is due to expire at the end of June.

In a letter to the Chancellor the MPs say if it ends in June, ground handling firms would have to lay off most staff.

That would make it more difficult for Northern Ireland to restart air routes.

Airports and airlines are grappling with how to reopen and work safely but are likely to be operating at reduced levels of capacity for some time.

The MPs say: “The combination of the time taken for the airline industry to pick up and the cost of holding on to staff while no revenue is being earned had the real potential to put these firms out of business.

“Without their input the challenge of having the ability to speed the national recovery will be much greater.”

The MPs suggest the job retention scheme could be extended for some industries into October.

They also suggest the level of payments could be tapered as staff gradually increase the hours they work.

‘No cliff edge’

The Treasury is considering what to do with the job retention scheme which has saved millions of workers from redundancy but at significant cost.

The first month of the scheme is estimated to have cost £8bn.

On Monday the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, told employers there would be no “cliff edge” when the initial version of the scheme expires at the end of June.

He said he was working to find “the most effective way to wind down the scheme and ease people back into work in an effective way”.

However, he said the same level of support could not continue: “Some scenarios have suggested we are potentially spending as much on the furlough scheme as we do on the NHS, for example. Now clearly that is not a sustainable situation.”

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