Travel disruption at UK airports caused by severe labor shortages could be solved if staff opted for longer working hours, a business minister has suggested.
Speaking to Sky News, Paul Scully highlighted the potential for part-time workers to be ‘more productive’ as he was tackled for months of misery experienced by air passengers.
His comments came as the Heathrow boss warned the industry-wide staffing crisis could take 18 months to solve.
Gatwick Airport has also announced that it is reducing the number of daily flights during its busy summer period to help deal with labor shortages and avoid cancellations.
Air travelers across the UK have faced months of disruption, culminating in a chaotic half-term week and Jubilee weekend, fueling fears that the upcoming summer holidays could threaten queues, delays and similar disappointments.
The aviation industry is suffering from a shortage of personnel around the world after laying off thousands of people during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Scully said: “When you start something almost from scratch because there were very few flights going through Heathrow at times, it takes time to bring staff back.
“Our ministers have tried to work with Heathrow, Gatwick and the other airport operators. We want them to do more.
“We want to make sure that, in a tight labor market, there are enough people to fill the positions there and we will continue to work with them.”
He added: “There are a record number of vacancies – 1.3 million vacancies across the country in all kinds of sectors – but there are also people who have recalibrated what they want to do when they were on leave.
“We want to make sure that those people who aren’t necessarily working full time, through universal credit, we can put them back to work to be more productive, if that suits them, and obviously match them with the sectors where there’s these vacancies.”
Why is there travel chaos at UK airports and how long could it last?
Asked whether this meant people were working longer hours, the minister said: ‘I’m not talking about forcing people to do anything, but we just want to make sure they’re matched up correctly so that it’s just that those people who can work longer – who want to work longer – can do it.”
Blaming the operators, Labor MP Emily Thornberry told Sky News: ‘We have to ask our airlines why they are not planning?
“It’s not like people show up unannounced to get on a plane.
“They reserve these seats several months in advance.
“Why don’t airlines make sure they have enough staff?
“Personally, I think they fired people and now they’re struggling to get them back.”
She added: “When I spoke to airline staff they said they couldn’t believe the airlines had been so myopic, had laid off so many staff and now they realize they don’t. can’t get them back.”
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