Coronavirus: Airport ground-handlers seek furloughing clarity | Business News

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Three of the companies which dominate ground-handling services at Britain’s airports have warned that changes to the government’s emergency wage subsidy scheme risk becoming “another breaking point for our industry”.

Sky News understands that Dnata, Swissport and WFS are urging the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to bring forward amendments that will enable them to furlough and utilise their workers on a part-time basis from the beginning of June, rather than two months later as he signalled this week.

Chancellor warns of a ‘significant recession’

Mr Sunak confounded widespread reports on Tuesday when he announced that the scheme – which could cost in the region of £80bn – would be extended until October, with 80% of employees’ salaries guaranteed up to £2,500-per-month.

He also said that from the beginning of August, companies would be expected to contribute part of the cost, although further details will not be disclosed until later in the month.

How airlines are responding to COVID challenge

In a joint statement from executives at the three companies, they said they would “welcome further clarity around the changes planned for the scheme in August, which have the potential to create another breaking point for our industry as we face an environment marked by fragile and unpredictable demand”.

They added that this risk was heightened “by the uncertainty around the proposed 14-day quarantine period, which might impact the desire of airlines to return to the skies”.

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Some airlines have said they will not return to flying, or will operate only severely limited schedules, if the quarantine period is introduced.

“We are asking that furlough flexibility is brought forward from 1 August to 1 June and the three-week minimum furlough period removed”, the trio of companies said

“Allowing staff to be part-time furloughed and part-time re-engaged in paid work would provide crucial flexibility during this difficult period, helping to sustain employment and reduce costs for the government in the long-term.”

The ground-handlers, along with Menzies Aviation, have warned repeatedly that the coronavirus pandemic threatens tens of thousands of jobs across their sector.

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