Figures released this week show that 6 percent of the entire workforce in Britain was still furloughed as of 22 August.
And the number of people coming off furlough during the summer has slowed to a trickle.
More than half of staff in passenger air transport were still temporarily laid off at the end of July.
Areas close to airports are among the places with highest rates of workers on furlough. A staggering 10 percent of all employees in the London boroughs of Hounslow and Hillingdon and the town of Slough are still on the scheme.
These are areas that surround Heathrow airport. The picture in Crawley, near London Gatwick airport, is similar.
No one is sure what will happen to those workers when chancellor Rishi Sunak ends the furlough scheme in a few weeks’ time.
But it is clear that air travel industry bosses want to have their cake and eat it too. In the midst of labour shortages, they want to keep hold of their highly skilled workers—but don’t want to pay them while fewer people are flying.
For decades these multinationals have made a killing out of a deregulated airline market, while keeping wages low. Their bosses talked up the need for low taxes and a smaller state.
Now, as air travel has slumped, they are begging the government for state handouts for their industry.
The government should guarantee all workers who are laid off 100 percent of their wages, but refuse to hand over cash to firms that are now feeling the pinch.
The figures on furlough came with news that the British economic “recovery” had slowed to a crawl.
Output rose just 0.1 percent in July on the previous month, the Office for National Statistics admitted on Friday.
It was the weakest monthly performance since January.
The economy would have contracted if not for a 22 percent expansion in mining—boosted by the reopening of an oilfield after a temporary maintenance closure.
So, the only reason Britain’s chaotic economy is not sliding towards recession, is because the bosses are making money from exploiting the fossil fuels dangerously overheating the planet.
It is clear that big business again hopes to make workers’ pay for their crisis. The unions should sent out a clear message that they are prepared to fight to stop that.