The Unite union has branded a decision by Virgin Atlantic to cut up to 3,150 jobs from its global operation as “premature”.
Virgin confirmed the news earlier as the airline unveiled plans to downsize its operations in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Branding the move a “devastating blow to the UK aviation sector”, Unite national officer for civil air transport Oliver Richardson said: “The move is premature as the government job retention scheme is still up and running and being fully utilised by the company.
“The company as yet have not formally notified us of the detail of their proposals, and we urge them not to act in haste while the job retention scheme is in operation.”
The UK job retention scheme allows private companies to claim 80 per cent of the wages of furloughed employees from the government.
Unite also, somewhat implausibly, claimed the move threatened the future of Gatwick.
Virgin currently holds two per cent of capacity at the south London airport.
Unite assistant general secretary, Diana Holland, added: “We have grave concerns about the impact on Gatwick airport and the local economy following this latest blow.
“The Virgin announcement that it is pulling out of Gatwick follows that of Norwegian and BA indicating that they are reducing operations and pulling out of Gatwick.
“There have been 18,000 job losses announced in the UK aviation sector in the last week alone and this makes the case even more strongly that the aviation industry-specific package Unite has consistently called for, and the government has promised, must now be delivered.”
Working closely with unions BALPA and Unite, a company-wide consultation period of 45 days has begun, Virgin said in a statement.