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West Midlands aerospace industry at ‘five to midnight’ as government stays silent on support

Unite, the West Midlands’ leading union, is warning that the region’s world-beating aerospace industry is at ‘five to midnight’, staring at the loss of thousands of highly skilled jobs and billions in economic contribution unless the sector receives urgent support from the government.

The union is appealing to the people of the region to get behind its campaign to keep jobs and incomes in the community.

Unite’s warning comes after Collins Aerospace announced 300 potential redundancies at its sites in Wolverhampton, Birmingham Marston Green as well as at Banbury in Oxfordshire. Aerospace parts firm SPS Technologies has also announced 100 job losses at its factory in Rugby. Meanwhile West Midlands employer Rolls Royce is planning to shed 3,000 jobs across the UK.

With a huge decline in new orders and maintenance work – a knock-on effect from the pandemic hit to the aviation sector – many more jobs are at risk in the industry right across the region. More than 12,000 aerospace redundancies have already been announced in the UK.

Unite issued its jobs warning following the publication of a new report by economic experts Acuity Analysis, which details the challenges facing the West Midlands’ and the entire UK aerospace sector. The analysis profiles the importance of the sector to the region’s economy and reveals:

  • The West Midlands region is heavily reliant on the aerospace sector, with 5,100 workers being employed in the sector.
  • There are 100 employers in the region split between 50 manufacturing companies and 50 companies specialising in the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of aircraft.
  • Major aerospace employers in the region include BAE, Bombardier, GKN, Rolls Royce and Collins Aerospace.
  • The sector is incredibly valuable for the region generating £756 million in gross value added per annum.

According to Unite, which has been battling for sector support since March, large-scale job losses would have a crippling effect on both the West Midlands’ and the nation’s economies: 5,000 aerospace jobs lost would see more than £2 billion wiped off the UK’s economic output.

Unite has been pressing the UK government to follow the lead of competitor nations such as France and Germany to establish an investment programme for the sector to survive, rebuild and recover. A central call from the union is for the government to extend the jobs retention scheme to prevent the premature loss of more jobs and skills while the sector works to build back.

Unite regional officer for the West Midlands, Andy Taylor, said: “Aerospace is absolutely crucial to the West Midlands’ economy but the lack of action at Westminster means we now stand at five to midnight and could be looking at a very bleak future.

“Jobs are going by the day and our world-leading status is slipping away as other nations sense the competitive advantage in our government’s inaction.

“Without the support this sector is crying out for we will lose thousands of the highly skilled, secure jobs that we are told the UK needs and that the government wishes to encourage.

“It is a travesty that the government has not followed the lead of other countries including France and Germany to provide specific support for what is a world class industry. Worse still, the UK government’s silence on support gives our competitors a business advantage.

“We are pleading with the government. Waste no more time. Be clear that the JRS will be extended for the sector to preserve skills and jobs, and bring forward a package of support for the aerospace sector which would not only preserve jobs in the West Midlands but be the shot in the arm the national economy desperately needs.”

Unite is urging everyone who is employed directly in the aerospace industry or indirectly associated with it to contact their MP and ask them to lobby the government for support for the sector.

Andy Taylor added: “If you work in the West Midlands’ aerospace sector or know someone who does, then please help us save this flagship industry and keep our communities in work. Pick up the phone to your MP or drop them an email. Only by speaking up together can we win the future our workers absolutely deserve.”

West Midlands in aerospace jobs blow as Collins Aerospace announces ‘premature’ major redundancies

Unite, the UK’s leading union, has warned that the West Midlands faces the loss of several hundred highly skilled, well paid jobs as a result of Collins Aerospace announcing redundancies.

Premature decision

The union says that with the government’s furlough programme continuing in some form until October, and with the union fighting for a sector support package, the move to lay-offs is premature.

The company, which is part of Raytheon Technologies, produces high tech aerospace systems, has announced 300 potential redundancies at its sites in Wolverhampton, Birmingham Marston Green and Banbury in Oxfordshire.

Sector support

For months, Unite has been calling on the government to bring forward a sector support package for aerospace, which has been heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, warning that with every day going by without the type of government support seen in competitor nations like France and Germany, the industry in the UK will shrink in employment and prestige.

Bitter blow

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Andy Taylor said: “The announcement of the job losses at Collins Aerospace is a bitter blow to the West Midlands which simply can’t afford to lose this type of well paid, highly skilled job.

 “But this announcement is premature.  With the JRS continuing until October, Collins should reassess its decision until support for the sector from the government is agreed.

 “This is yet another example of why the entire aerospace industry needs a specific sectorial package from the government in order to protect employment skills in a sector where the UK is a world leader.

“Unite will, of course, be working tirelessly to convince the company to think again, and we certainly will not accept compulsory job losses.”

Organised sites

Unite is organised at the sites in Wolverhampton and Birmingham and will be entering into negotiations with Collins Aerospace to reduce the number of redundancies and to remove the threat of compulsory job losses.

Aerospace demands

The union has a series of calls designed to help UK aerospace industry, the second biggest in the world, to survive, rebuild and recover, including:

  • The government should introduce a strategy for support in line with those already announced in France and Germany.
  • The creation of an aircraft replacement scheme to reduce the UK’s carbon footprint.
  • A long-term commitment to the new Tempest fighter aircraft.
  • Support for diversification through ‘risk and reward’ funding.
  • Adaption of the government’s job retention scheme to support the sector’s recovery.
  • Support for apprenticeships in the sector to preserve skills.