Wants them to pledge to create 60,000 to offset decline of Heathrow
Picture: Aisha Hussain
A 22-year-old graduate from Acton is among those leading the calls for London mayoral candidates to pledge to create 60,000 green jobs to help in the recovery for thousands of West London workers hit by the decline of Heathrow Airport.
Aisha Hussain is championing the cause for the communities directly impacted by the job losses across Ealing, Hounslow and wider West London, and urging for a solution to the crisis to be put on the political agenda.
Her call comes as part of 10-strong London-wide campaign team, who are pushing umbrella group Citizen’s UK’s bid for the mayoral runners to create a ‘Just Transition city’ where new green policies will benefit low-income and diverse communities.
Aisha said that through a listening campaign speaking to hundreds of people across London, the key policies being pushed for are 60,000 green jobs and apprenticeships, and to end fuel poverty by 2030 by upgrading 100,000 homes.
Hundreds of former and present Heathrow workers, and those connected to the airport, have signed a petition warning about the devastating impact of job losses on their lives.
It reads: “We are a group of people in West London, including current and ex-employees at London Heathrow Airport (LHR) and we are writing this letter because we are concerned about the loss of jobs in the area and especially those connected to, or at Heathrow and measures being put in place by employers there.
“We are now bearing the impact of the end of furlough scheme and the huge wave of redundancies. Some of our companies have made more than 450 employees redundant.
“Many of us are out of work. We are worrying how we will find jobs to pay bills, feed our families and keep roofs over our heads. The uncertainty is affecting our physical and mental health. We don’t know what the future holds.”
In areas such as Hounslow where more than 40,000 jobs are linked to Heathrow and its supply chain, bosses who are working on the borough’s recovery had previously warned its communities could suffer the same fate as mining towns if targeted government support is not provided.
Aisha became involved with the campaign through Acton Mosque’s branch, after graduating from Imperial College last summer during the pandemic. At first, the design engineering graduate felt the pressure of finding work immediately but as it became increasingly overwhelming, she decided to look at volunteering while living with her family.
She said: “I quickly realised my situation was a lot better than people really close to me. It was the first time I saw the direct impact of all the job losses that were happening, down to people on my own road, my neighbours, people from my mosque, so many locals.
“That’s why I started to get more involved with this campaign.”
The attraction to the Just Transition campaign for Aisha also centred around the immediate impact it wants to achieve in the next mayoral term, rather than the “lobbying in the long-term” she sees a lot of other climate change campaigns focused on.
“We’re focusing on this year’s mayoral candidates and what we can do with them has that immediate impact too, and importantly on people’s lives so it’s not just middle class, white men working on climate campaigns, it’s people from low income, diverse and minority ethnic groups as well because its their lives being affected by this,” she said.
“Just being a young Muslim woman felt very relevant to me to be part of working with diverse groups of people, and also from being from Ealing and London working on something that’s really relevant to those around me as well.”
And for Aisha, she also sees the opportunities for young people to get involved with the green sector and the rising interests for looking for jobs in that market.
“Being a young 22-year-old having just left university and entering the working world, it just made me realise how important green industry and jobs are,” she said.
“It’s something I’d really want to get into myself but there’s lots of vagueness and uncertainty around it. If there were direct schemes and programmes in place I think it would inspire so many young people to go into it as well.”
The campaigners are adamant green jobs must be able to cater to those from all backgrounds and communities that need them, rather than focus on high-paid office jobs for people who have been through higher education.
“That’s why we’re focusing on the low-income, diverse communities aspect of the campaign,” Aisha added.
“Diversifying it a little bit, so not just office based jobs but some really hands-on apprenticeship, really broad to make it more accessible.”
The ambition to upgrade 100,000 fuel-poor homes to become energy efficient by 2030, campaigners see as also being a solution in creating green jobs to carry out the work.
Sectors being considered also include transport and energy, and would involve training and retraining of people who have lost their jobs, but also young people now facing a tough economic climate.
The priorities of green jobs and ending fuel poverty were agreed on after campaigners listened to hundreds of Londoners’ stories last year where jobs and homes were main themes brought up in the conversations.
Families described the impact of their social or low-income housing being on busy, polluted streets, with damp and mouldy walls and expensive energy bills.
Aisha said many felt trapped and helpless in the situation, recalling some testimony: “Parents with kids with asthma on really busy streets and all of the mental, emotional and physical impact it is having on their health and wellbeing, and feeling there’s nothing they can do about it because the homes have been built and that’s just the way they are.”
Aisha and her colleagues will be presenting their climate campaign initiatives, which form part of a wider London manifesto, to mayoral candidates Sadiq Khan and Shaun Bailey on April 28, and hope to further flesh out and negotiate the plans with their input for the upcoming mayoral term.
To view the petition click here and find out more about the Just Transition campaign click here.
Anahita Hossein-Pour - Local Democracy Reporter
April 20, 2021