The Government are working at pace to ensure the recovery of the aviation sector, and Departments are working closely together to progress options in support of individuals affected.
Giving evidence to the Transport Committee yesterday, BA boss Alex Cruz seemed to suggest that the company’s notorious fire and rehire threats were now off the table. However, I am informed by Unite the Union that, although its campaigning has meant that many of its members are now free from this kind of blackmail, there are at least 800 mixed fleet staff who still face this threat unless they sign new contracts. What steps are the Minister and his Government taking to banish this shameful practice once and for all?
As I have said, the Government are quite clear that they regret some of the decisions that have been taken, although these are of course commercial decisions. What I welcome is the agreement in principle between BA and Unite on behalf of cabin crew, which encourages the spirit of partnership between employees, the airlines and the union, which I am sure the hon. Member will join me in encouraging across the sector.
As has already been noted, while it is welcome that British Airways has potentially dropped some of its bully-boy tactics of threatening to fire and rehire its workforce on much worse conditions, it comes too late for many employees who had taken the difficult decision to take voluntary redundancy, such as the single father in my constituency who could not afford to feed his family on 40% of pay. What steps is the Minister’s Department taking to support such individuals, because his Department’s response to the Transport Committee report said that it was the Government’s ambition to support these individuals where possible?
It absolutely is the Government’s intention and desire to support these highly trained and highly valued members of our workforce. At the end of the day, we need to concentrate very much on the recovery and restart. The Government have already moved quickly to rebuild consumer confidence, collaborating with industry and the unions and across the sector. It is through that that we will ensure the vitality of the sector and those who work for it.
Today marks the 10th anniversary of Pope Benedict’s visit to Parliament when he addressed both Houses in Westminster Hall and reminded us that, in the pursuit of public policy, we should always keep the common good at the heart of it and that there is an intrinsic link between human dignity and the value of work. In that spirit and in welcoming the Minister to his post today, will he join me in thanking the tens of thousands of ground handlers in every airport across our nation who have kept our skies open, working for companies such as Swissport, dnata, Menzies and World Freight Services? Will he dust down that aviation-specific package that his predecessor had and bring it back to the table?
I thank the hon. Member for making that absolutely superb point. He is quite right to thank those who work in the aviation sector, particularly the ground handlers, because of the way they have continued to work throughout the sector, which has ensured that vital freight and supplies have continued to come in, and people have been able to get around when they have needed to do so. The Government will be looking—as I will be in the course of settling into the role—at any possible steps that we can take to help the sector, which is absolutely vital for our country.