Union calls for more time in bid to help save airport jobs

Blackpool Airport

Blackpool Airport

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Union bosses have called on Balfour Beatty to think again about the rapid closure of Blackpool Airport to give parties more time to come up with a rescue package to save jobs.

The owners announced on Tuesday evening that no agreement with prospective buyers had been made and that commercial flights will cease from October 15.

Although air traffic control and fire cover will also end at that point the smaller general aviation companies at the Squires Gate hub will be free to continue to operate.

However, more than 100 jobs are set to go and the long term future of the airport now lies under a cloud as Balfour Beatty, MPs, local councils and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership continue to look for ways to retain aviation use of the site while making the best use of the 400 acres to support jobs and the local economy.

Unite union officials were at Squires Gate today talking to members whose jobs will disappear when the operating company Blackpool Airport Ltd becomes insolvent.

Britain’s biggest union said the speed with which the closure has come since owners Balfour Beatty announced it was being put up for sale in August was too hasty and has asked them to rethink.

They said more than 100 staff at the airport, including fire fighters, security, air traffic controllers and administrative staff, are set to lose their jobs when the airport shuts on Wednesday.

Unite regional officer Dave Kennedy said: “We are shocked and very disappointed. We can’t believe Blackpool Airport’s hasty decision to shut the airport next week.

“We urge Blackpool Airport bosses to seriously rethink the planned closure.

“The loss of 120 jobs in Blackpool will have a huge impact on local communities. It is a major blow to the town, which is already struggling with high unemployment, and a shortage of skilled or well-paid work.

“Our main priority now is to work with local agencies to ensure that our members receive as much support as possible during this difficult time.”

He said the union would be talking to Blackpool Council, local colleges and universities as well as the JobCentre Plus to arrange help for the staff.

“There are I think 118 people working there – a very broad spectrum of skills and its a real shame it has come to this.

“We had known for quite a while there were financial problems, for a number of years, but what is disappointing is not enough was done in that time to try to diversify activity at the airport.

“It is a big site with a lot of land there which could have been used.

“Because it is going to be made insolvent then our members will have to claim back their redundancy and any back holiday pay from the state.

“We will be supporting them through that process.

“The main thing though is to get them back working. The problem with Blackpool is that it has high unemployment rate and is a low pay area.

“But we are talking to the colleges and University about suitable training courses.

Gareth Carr at Blackpool’s JobCentre Plus said they were sending a team in to the airport today to talk to staff.

He said: “Our team will be giving talks about their options and what to do next, it is part of our rapid response service when we get situations where a large employer lays off staff.

“It may be that some, depending on who they work for at the airport, have other jobs to go to, but for those that don’t we will be offering our full range of support and advice.

“There are something like 110 staff who may need our help and when we visit we will be able to assess exactly what is needed.

“Not all of them may be from Blackpool but if thee are a large number we will be making arrangements to deal with them should they want help with such things as retraining and opportunities available or failing that with making a claim for benefits.”

Aircraft fuel firm ‘sorry’

On Monday, some flights were diverted from the airport when aviation fuel ran out. Supplier Gulf Aviation said today it was sorry that the airport was closing.

A spokesman said: “ We worked tirelessly to try and ensure a continued fuel supply to Blackpool Airport.

“However, due to the deep uncertainty about the future of the airport, and the associated financial exposure at risk, we were left with no alternative but to delay fuel delivery. We were saddened by the disruption caused, and disappointed to learn of the closure of the airport and to lose this valued supply contract from our portfolio.”