Ground handling giant Swissport is it make around 4,500 of its 8,000 strong work force redundant as it reorganises in the wake the COVID-19 crisis.
The company’s financial forecast predicts that 2020 revenue will be down by almost 50% compared to 2019 and its CEO, Jason Holt, said it must cut its staff numbers to survive. In a message to Swissport staff he said: ‘We must do this to secure the lifeline of funding from lenders and investors to protect as many jobs as possible in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
“It’s true that we’ve seen tough times before – volcanic cloud, 9/11, the financial crisis – and we’ve weathered these. But this time it’s different. We have never seen anything like COVID-19 in our lifetimes.
“We are now facing a long period of uncertainty and reduced flight numbers, along with significant changes taking place to the way people travel and the way goods move around the world. There is no escaping the fact that the industry is now smaller than it was, and it will remain so for some time to come.”
The Unite and GMB unions, which represent Swissport staff in the UK, both described that announcement as “devastating news”. Unite, which represents Swissport at Bristol and Jersey airports, added that it will be “a further blow to the already stricken South West aviation sector”.
The unions say that the ground handling sector’s dire situation is being exacerbated by the UK Government’s failure to bring forward the promised bespoke support package for the sector to support airlines and airports. The government first promised to back the industry on March 17, but only the job retention / furlough scheme has been introduced so far. Unite said the extension of that scheme must be an “immediate priority” to preserve jobs, “giving them support and retaining the infrastructure while the industry works to recover from the pandemic.”
The Swissport announcement was made shortly after the Aviapartner ground handling company agreed a €25 million loan from the Belgian Government to help it through the industry’s crisis.