Business

Union warns 1,800 jobs at risk in Northern Ireland aerospace industry

Bombardier has announced significant job cuts in Belfast in recent weeks. 
Michael McHugh

SOME 1,800 job losses are threatened in Northern Ireland's aerospace industry, a union has said.

Workers' representatives warned of an unfolding crisis and the prospect of more redundancies as furlough supports reduce.

The pandemic has prompted a dramatic downturn in demand for new aircraft as the number of passengers plummets.

Unite the Union signed a letter involving the leaders of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland devolved authorities to Prime Minister Boris Johnson demanding urgent intervention by the UK Government to preserve highly-skilled jobs.

Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster said: "The sector is crucial for Northern Ireland and everything possible must be done to ensure it receives maximum protection."

Unite brought together Mrs Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, counterparts in Scotland and Wales, Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford, and regional trade union leaders.

Regional secretary Jackie Pollock said: "In Northern Ireland, we have an unfolding crisis in the sector with already 1,800 job losses threatened and the prospect of more with the reduction in furlough supports."

He said threatened lay-offs to date would cause a £800 million blow to the economy and £17.5 million reduction in household consumption.

"The Prime Minister must now respond positively to this initiative and ensure that every possible tool will be used alongside measures being enacted by the devolved administrations in order to preserve jobs and to sustain the aerospace sector throughout and beyond the Covid-19 crisis," he said.

Airlines have grounded aircraft and scaled back expansion plans as their industry ground to a halt due to Covid-19.

Passenger numbers remain significantly down on previous years and international travel restrictions have continued to stymie the industry's recovery, airlines have argued.

READ MORE: Almost 100 more jobs set to go at Bombardier in Belfast

READ MORE: Aircraft seat maker Collins to lay off 235 staff in Kilkeel

The joint letter calls for the immediate establishment of a UK Aerospace Taskforce so government, business and trade unions collectively work together to support businesses, workers and communities.

Ms O'Neill said: "Boris Johnson has a responsibility to step up and provide the support that's desperately needed to safeguard the future of this sector and its workers."

The letter estimated it would take three to five years for the sector to return to pre-crisis levels and said the magnitude of intervention required was not within the power of the devolved institutions.

Mr Pollock added: "Tens of thousands of highly-skilled jobs and those supported by the aerospace sector in the supply chain are on the brink of being lost forever.

"We are only six weeks away from a cliff edge to the Government's coronavirus job retention scheme which raises the prospect of job losses on a devastating scale."

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