The UK’s aerospace industry could be facing a “very bleak future” unless the sector receives urgent government support, Unite the Union warned on Thursday.
The sector could see job losses “on a vast scale” without an aid package similar to that introduced by the French and German governments, it said.
“Unless we see comprehensive action to support UK aerospace now, then this world-class industry could well be lost on the Johnson government's watch. There is not a moment more to be lost,” said Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner.
Research conducted for the union found that around 102,000 people are directly employed in the sector, generating over £9bn ($11bn) for the UK economy every year.
Thousands more are indirectly employed in the sector, according to an Acuity Analysis study.
READ MORE: Airbus to slash 1,700 jobs from UK workforce
The French government earlier this month unveiled a €15bn support package for the country’s aerospace sector. Finance minister Bruno Le Maire said that the plan was aimed at saving around 300,000 direct and indirect jobs in the sector.
The united warning comes after Airbus (AIR.PA) on Tuesday said that some 1,700 jobs would be lost in the UK as part of its plans to cut 15,000 roles from its global workforce, citing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the aviation industry.
Airbus employs 13,500 people in the UK, primarily at its Broughton and Filton sites. The French plane maker said the job cuts were “necessary” to safeguard the company’s future.
Unite also called for a continuation of the government’s wage-subsidy scheme and the introduction of a government-supported shorter working-week scheme, similar to Germany’s state-funded “Kurzarbeit” programme.
Aerospace workers in France and Germany are being “embraced by their government,” said Turner, warning that government inertia would result in “thousands of jobs lost and more of our businesses moving overseas.”
“The industry and the workforce speak with one voice on the need for urgent action to ensure that UK aerospace survives, rebuilds and recovers,” he said.
“Without this, the jobs lost in recent weeks will snowball into an avalanche of further redundancies and the global prestige of this industry, built up by generations of workers, will be destroyed.”
The aviation industry is confronting an unprecedented crisis in coronavirus, as airlines and manufacturers face a collapse in demand from travellers.
Airbus said in Tuesday’s (30 June) statement that commercial aircraft activity had dropped by 40% so far this year and is not expected to recover until 2023.
A June report from think tank the New Economic Forum warned that as many as 70,000 UK jobs linked to the aviation industry were at “immediate” risk due to the pandemic.
The report compared the expected collapse in aviation employment to the rapid decline of the UK coal industry in the early 1980s, which left lasting economic scars on many communities.
Unite said on Tuesday (30 June) that it was “extremely concerned” that headline job loss figures would not take into account the smaller firms that play a role in the aerospace supply chain, noting that they were also starting to make “large-scale redundancies.”