Thursday, 7 February 2008


Draft notes of meeting between Mick Rix, GMB National Officer for civil air transport, Charlie King (GMB), Peter Murry and Dave Welsh (GPTU).

1 The meeting was called by Mick Rix after Peter Murry sent a letter to the GMB on behalf of GPTU protesting re their support for an additional runway and terminal at Heathrow airport, (see below). Mick Rix stated that GMB was eager to engage in dialogue about this.

2 Mick Rix wished to stress that the GMB stance was not simply a matter of job protection for its members, GMB had opposed other airport extensions. Having said this it became clear that although not the sole concern jobs at Heathrow were certainly a GMB concern and at least 70,000 jobs may depend on the Heathrow expansion.

3 Although PM raised concerns re the expansion of cheap leisure air travel, the GMB officers in this meeting were keen to empahsise the importance of Heathrow as a hub for air freight and its distribution by road as a reason for the GMB stance. Even with possible reduction in leisure traffic via Heathrow, overall air traffic was expected to increase

Some very large freight operators were involved in this (notably DHL, but also UPS, FedEx and TNT). There were also some rail deliveries but about 450 lorry journeys went out from Heathrow daily. This was because of the practises of customers expecting rapid direct deliveries, and minimal stockholding.

4. The Open Skies policy was being introduced in March 2008 and this would remove restrictions on transatlantic flights going on to second or further destinations once they had made the Atlantic crossing. Currently about 33% of flights into Heathrow were for transfers for flights to other destinations.

5 Not expanding Heathrow would mean the export of much of the traffic currently going through it, probably to European airports and therefore jobs would follow.

6 Changes in aircraft technology should make air travel less environmentally damaging in terms of C02. Larger planes (e.g. Airbus), could use bio-fuel as part of their fuel and transport larger numbers of people faster Additionally BA was re-equipping its fleet with more efficient planes from 2010, it was hoped that other airlines would follow

7 GMB was urging firms round Heathrow to reduce their environmental footprints, encouraging the use of bus and train transportation to, from and around the airport. Improvements to the terminals should include a new rail link to the West.

8 Mick Rix and Charlie King felt that for these reasons the proposed expansion of Heathrow was the best possible current option which might actually reduce CO2 levels more than other options.

9 GMB agreed to send PM more detailed documents summarising their arguments which are not given fully here

LETTER 20/12/2007
To: Paul Kenny, General Secretary GMB

Dear Paul,

The Green Party Trade Union Group has asked me to write to you regarding reports of GMB support for Heathrow expansion. Whilst we recognise and support a Union’s right to seek to defend its members’ jobs, pay and conditions, we feel that support for Heathrow expansion and most other expansion of the air travel industry, is under current environmental and technological conditions, a short-sighted way of doing so, and we call on GMB to change its policy on this issue.

Expansion of current modes of air travel can only increase C02 emissions which have to be cut back drastically to avoid the potentially disastrous consequences of global climate change. GPTU and the Green party do not believe that campaigning against climate change and for new environmentally friendly technologies is in any way incompatible with a Trades Union’s proper role of protecting its members.

Many Unions will be sending members, reps and delegates to the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Conference in London on February 9th 2008, (for further details contact;), we hope GMB will have a presence at this conference to discuss ways in which the Labour movement and the Green Movement can work together in future.

Yours fraternally

Peter Murry

10 NUCLEAR POWER. Mick Rix also briefly explained that the GMB favoured a 'balanced energy policy’ in which some new nuclear power played a role together with other sources such as renewable and clean coal. Currently there were large quantities of nuclear material in the UK which potentially had military uses. If this was used as nuclear fuel in new plant built on existing nuclear sites that could also be used for other forms of generation, C02 reductions of about 8% could be rapidly achieved. Using the appropriate technology the waste would be in the form of ‘Mox’ that no longer had military potential. Furthermore the technology involved might be exportable.

11. PM invited Mick Rix and or other GMB speakers to put the cases as outlined above in possible further public meetings. Mick Rix was interested.

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