More than 1,800 jobs are under threat in Northern Ireland's aerospace industry, according to Unite. The revelation has prompted the First and deputy First Ministers to join the union’s call to the Prime Minister for urgent intervention. A letter signed jointly by Arlene Foster, Michelle O’Neill and Unite the Union along with the First Ministers for Scotland and Wales, has been sent to Boris Johnson asking him to address the unprecedented impact of the pandemic on the sector. Arlene Foster said: “The pandemic has understandably resulted in a drop in passenger numbers. This has had a devastating impact on the wider aerospace sector with grounded fleets leading to reduced demand for new aircraft, as well as maintenance and repair.
The sector is crucial for Northern Ireland and everything possible must be done to ensure it receives maximum protection.
The 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. Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “Our local aerospace sector is hugely important, not just to the economy but to people’s lives and livelihoods. “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.”
Unite's 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 the industry ground to a halt due to Covid-19. 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."
Passenger numbers remain significantly down on previous years and international travel restrictions have continued to hinder the industry's recovery, airlines have argued.