Disruption to UK Airspace

19 Apr 2010

“We have heard stories that some companies have sent people home with no pay, or said people can stay at home with no pay, or take annual leave or lieu leave instead. We have been asked for our advice nationally on what some companies are implementing as a result of no work taking place.

Firstly, can a company “lay off” temporarily or force people to substitute leave or leave without no pay, as is the case at one or two locations. If your contract of employment allows the company to do such things, then the answer is yes. However in cases where this is allowed through the contract of employment, usually reasonable dialogue and communication would be expected with your reps and regional organisers.

However, if there is no such agreement with a company, or you do not have a contractual arrangement, then the company should sit down and discuss its difficulty with the union.  With most companies in aviation we have decent and sensible relations, which enables sensible dialogue to take place.  However, there are one or two companies, where some local management are not that skilled or adept at employee relations, and may need some gentle reminding that some of their actions may be construed as a potential breach of contract (which regions will need to deal with if these arise).  Whilst we know that some ground handling companies are suffering as a result of the economic situation, there is no excuse for bad employment practices, and our members have the right to be treated at all times fairness and respect.

It is also worth noting, that there is increasing pressure from the aviation companies for NATS to withdraw its instruction, and to get stranded people home. It would be a silly and foolish thing if ground handling companies where enforcing people to be on leave, or telling them not to report for work, and the airports could not then handle the repatriation of UK nationals stranded abroad, due to a lack of staff availability.

Our general advice is, if the situation continues and if the situation causes real economic harm to a company, then we will enter into discussions to see what support and help we can provide that company by way of assistance, but until such times the industry should continue to honour current agreements.”