Union condemns dismissal of 122 trainee air traffic controllers and calls for urgent halt to plans

29 October 2020

Prospect union, which represents air traffic controllers, has condemned plans by national air traffic management operator NATS to dismiss 122 trainee air traffic controllers. 40 of those had less than two months of training left until they were due to receive their student controller licence.

The whole aviation industry is facing severe problems because of the current downturn in traffic due to the global pandemic. However, prior to this the UK had been faced with a long-term shortage of controllers. Prospect has repeatedly called on NATS to publish a long-term workforce plan that addresses how the industry will be able to recover after the pandemic.

In the absence of a plan Prospect believes that gaps could quickly remerge thanks to the dismissal of these trainees and the ageing demographic of the workforce in certain areas of NATS. Indeed, NATS itself acknowledges that it will need the 122 in due course.

Steve Jary, Prospect national secretary for aviation, said:

“Prospect has been seeking to work with NATS over a number of months to find creative ways to retain these trainee controllers.

“Unfortunately, NATS has not been willing to develop meaningful proposals to save jobs with us.

“This means 122 trainees, who have put in huge amounts of work – at significant cost to the industry – to progress so far, will lose their jobs.

“This is obviously a hugely difficult and sad situation for them, but it also presents very real challenges to the future recovery of the aviation sector.

“As well as retaining the 122, we need a proper workforce plan that will see skilled controllers ready to go when the industry starts to recover from the pandemic.

“If we don’t do that passengers could all too easily be faced with delays and airspace closures because of a lack of air traffic controllers.”