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UK aerospace industry could disappear unless Government acts – Unite

Alan Jones, PA Industrial Correspondent

The UK’s world-class aerospace industry will be lost forever unless there is urgent action to support the sector through the current crisis, a leading union is warning.

Unite said its research revealed that almost 12,000 aerospace job losses have been announced in recent months at some of the UK’s biggest companies, including 1,700 by Airbus earlier this week.

The union said it has repeatedly warned that without swift action to support the aerospace industry,  more jobs will go on a “vast scale” and the UK’s crown as an industry leader will be “stolen” by competitor countries.

A study for the union showed that 102,000 workers are directly employed in the aerospace sector, with many thousands more in indirect employment.

The sector has a turnover of more than £38 billion, generating over £9 billion for the UK economy every year.

Unite said it wanted the UK government to follow the lead of countries such as France and Germany and put in place a programme the sector needs to survive, rebuild and recover.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner 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.

“This is a sector that generates billions for the national coffers, helping fund our NHS, public services and the Government’s promised infrastructure spend. It supports jobs the length and breadth of the country and is central to UK national security.

“Aerospace is exactly the sort of high-skilled industry, based in the communities that need to be at the heart of the Prime Minister’s promised levelling up efforts.

“This is a flexible, committed workforce. It stepped up during this crisis, manufacturing ventilators and other equipment desperately needed for the NHS and to protect the public. They deserve so much more than a government that turns a deaf ear to requests for assistance.

“While aerospace workers in France and Germany are being embraced by their government, kept in decent paid work, working a shorter working week and retraining in preparation for the upturn, playing their part in building a greener, stronger economy, our government’s inertia will see thousands of jobs lost and more of our business move overseas.”

Mr Turner warned that recent job losses will “snowball into an avalanche of further redundancies” without help.

A Government spokesman said: “We understand this is a difficult time for businesses and workers across the aerospace sector and stand ready to support those at risk of losing their jobs.

“The aerospace sector remains a critical part of the UK economy and we will continue to work closely with industry to ensure it can rebuild as the civil aviation market recovers.

“While conditions remain challenging, firms can continue to draw on the Government’s financial support packages, including billions of pounds of loans and guarantees, tax deferrals and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.”