Heathrow Airport Ltd continues to play Russian Roulette with workers’ and passenger lives
NEW ARRANGEMENTS TO OPERATE AIRPORTS SAFELY NOW ABSOLUTELY IMPERATIVE IF HEATHROW CEO CLAIM THAT SOCIAL DISTANCING IS IMPOSSIBLE TO OPERATE AT AIRPORTS
This is a matter of widespread public concern so it is essential that the right arrangements are arrived as operating airports safely is vital to both health of workers and passengers and the wider economy says GMB
GMB London, the union for workers in the aviation industry, is calling on the UK Government and the bodies responsible for public health and health and safety at work to spell out the new detailed arrangements required to operate airports safely - as the end of phase one of the lockdown approaches.
This call is in response to the statement from the CEO of Heathrow Airport Mr Holland-Kaye that social distancing is impossible to implement at airports with any volume of passengers. See notes to editors below for a copy of the report released by the Press Association 4th May 2020.
The position of the Heathrow Airport management became clear after a new GMB London call on 1st May, for management at Heathrow Airport Limited to put much more stringent measures in place and comply with the government’s social distancing requirements, See notes to editors below for copy of the GMB London press release dated 1st May on the ignoring social distancing requirements at Heathrow.
Trevlyn McLeod, GMB London Region Organiser, said
“Questions will be asked about why Mr Holland-Kaye didn't make this statement six weeks ago, he has knowingly flaunted the government’s advice. In the past two weeks three GMB London Region members working at Heathrow have lost their lives to the coronavirus.
Certainly his statement accurately reflects what GMB members have actually experienced at the airport where the social distancing requirements are ignored and workers are not allowed to wear a mask. It was this ignoring the rules that led to the recent GMB call for changes to implement social distancing requirements.
John Holland-Kaye is due in front of MPs on Wednesday and these questions need to be asked and he needs to answer them. We want answers and we want our members protected.
It is now imperative that the Government and the bodies responsible for public health and health and safety at work spell out without delay the alternative arrangements to operate airports safely. These are needed for both the traveling public and for the workers who run airports as the Covid-19 health emergency continues into a new phase.
What are the ingredients in the new regime? Health screening, immunity passports, face masks, super charged cleaning, etc- if social distancing is not possible?
This is a matter of widespread public concern so it is essential that the right arrangements are arrived as operating airports safely is vital to both health of workers and passengers and the wider economy. It beggars belief that the CEO of one of the world’s largest and busiest airports can think a statement like this is acceptable when other airports around the world have put measures in place to protect their workers and their passengers.”
Trevlyn McLeod, GMB London Region Organiser 079 6813 7967
GMB London Region Press Office 079 7001 9643
Notes to editors
1) GMB London press release May 1st May 2020
Airport workers are working in the two open Heathrow terminals where the baggage halls become crowded with passengers because HAL has closed two of its four terminals, meaning social distancing measures are not being practiced
GMB London, the union for airport workers, is calling for urgent action from management at Heathrow Airport Limited to put much more stringent measures in place and comply with the government’s social distancing requirements to protect the health and safety of our members working at Heathrow and passengers using the airport.
These workers fear the risk of contracting the virus from passengers returning from countries where Covid-19 is prevalent. The PPE provided is not be enough to protect our members who feel exposed in this over-crowded environment. They need the protection of social distancing. HAL is disregarding the TUC Joint Council, HSE and the CBI statement which makes clear that employers who remain open during the current crisis must guarantee safe working conditions and minimise the risk of workers being exposed to Covid-19.
The statement from the TUC Joint Council, HSE and CBI warned that employers who do not comply with the latest Public Health England guidance, including by not introducing social distancing measures, face being hit with enforcement notices.
There is currently no Covid-19 screening at Heathrow airport which heightens the real concern that airport workers are at greater risk of contracting and spreading the virus. In the past two weeks 3 GMB London Region members working at Heathrow have lost their lives to the coronavirus.
Trevlyn McLeod, GMB London Region Organiser said:
“On Tuesday 27 April two flights arrived at the same time from the same country, HAL allocated one conveyor belt for up to 500 passengers waiting to collect their bags. No social distancing was enforced in what was a very crowded area.
These are not safe conditions for passengers and they are not safe working conditions for our members who are going to work at Heathrow each day during this health crisis, risking their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
I find it incredulous that almost 8 weeks into the Covid-19 lockdown, Heathrow is still operating flights without enforcing the government’s guidelines on social distancing at the airport. There is no Covid-19 screening to help contain the spread of the virus in operation at Heathrow or many other overseas airports. Enforcing social distancing is essential if our members and airport passengers are to feel that their lives are more important than money.”
Screening for coronavirus at airports will be ‘kept under review’ by the government. GMB calls for HAL to enforce the government’s guidelines on social distancing and safe working at Heathrow airport for all working and using the airport.
2) Press Association News Agency 04 May 2020
Implementing social distancing at airports would require kilometre-long queues for each jumbo jet, according to the chief executive of Heathrow.
Heathrow's John Holland-Kaye has warned that the nation's major international airports do not have enough space for social distancing to be a solution for safe travel post-lockdown.
Mr Holland-Kaye writes in The Daily Telegraph: "Forget social distancing - it won't work in aviation or any other form of public transport, and the problem is not the plane, it is the lack of space in the airport.
"Just one jumbo jet would require a queue a kilometre long."
Mr Holland-Kaye also called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to quickly find a "common international standard" of alternative solutions that could be installed in time for summer.
Mandatory health checks for passengers, increased levels of hygiene and compulsory facemasks are among the options floated by Mr Holland-Kaye in order to open the nation's airports as soon as possible and avoid "massive job losses in our sector... (and) many other sectors that depend on us".
"The Prime Minister has talked about restarting the engines of the British economy. We are ready to play our part, but first we need his help to restart the engines of the British aviation fleet," he wrote.
The suggestions come days after Mr Holland-Kaye told the PA news agency that it is "just physically impossible to socially distance with any volume of passengers in an airport".
He added that social distancing on planes would reduce capacities by more than 50% and mean "prices would shoot up".