From the TUC

Congratulations to Heathrow – now become a Living Wage employer

01 Jul 2015, by in Economics

This morning, the TUC has welcomed the recommendation from the Airports Commission calling for additional runway capacity at Heathrow. We have long been on record as supporting airport expansion. As the voice of Britain at work, the TUC seeks the creation of successful businesses, economic growth and quality jobs. The economic case for airport expansion in the South East – or, to put it the other way around, the risk of the UK falling down the world economic league table as the result of inaction – was overwhelming.

 We gave evidence to the Airports Commission, both in writing and in person, alongside other interested parties, but having made our thoughts clear, we were keen to let the Commission do its job. The Airports Commission, under the leadership of Sir Howard Davies, collected rigorous evidence and formulated its conclusions based on its findings. With union members at both Heathrow and Gatwick, the TUC did not take sides, but the case made today for Heathrow is compelling, notably an additional 59,000-77,000 thousand new jobs in the local area by 2030, along with an airport to match London’s status as a global city, able to compete with the best in the world.

Today’s report is more important because it attaches a number of demanding conditions to Heathrow, relating to environmental protection as well as the role of Heathrow as an employer. On the environment, the Airports Commission recommends a ban on all scheduled night flights which, it argues, is only possible with expansion. It calls for a legally binding noise envelope which could stipulate no overall increase above current levels. It recommends an enhanced noise insulation scheme with support for local schools to be included as a priority. It argues that new capacity should only be released when it is clear that air quality at sites around the airport will not delay compliance with EU limits. All of these conditions are important and Heathrow must now demonstrate how it can meet them. Politicians and others must hold the airport’s feet to the fire; apart from anything else, political support for Heathrow expansion may only be possible if the airport becomes, in the Airports Commission’s words, a “better neighbour” than today.  

The Airports Commission calls for training opportunities and apprenticeships for local people, so that nearby communities benefit from jobs generated by the new infrastructure. It also argues that airport expansion will create thousands of new jobs and that Heathrow Airport Ltd should work with local authorities and schools to ensure local people, including young people, are able to benefit from this opportunity and should support the London Living Wage.

The TUC fully supports this call. Heathrow has made much of the jobs and skills case for airport expansion, but is not listed by the Living Wage Foundation as a Living Wage Employer . As well as encouraging this affiliation, the TUC calls on management and unions at Heathrow negotiate a well-structured, mutually beneficial workforce agreement covering not just excellent rates of pay, but jobs and skills more generally, including first class standards of health and safety and a commitment to equality in recruitment and selection practices, among which it should provide opportunities for those that find it difficult to access the labour market. Trade union agreements were a hallmark of previous large infrastructure projects, notably Heathrow Terminal Five and the stadia for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Those projects were notably for their excellent employment opportunities. We have done it before and we can do it again.