Video report by our correspondent Sharon O'Neill
Up to 180 jobs are to go at Thompson Aero Seating, in what the company say is a direct consequence of the pandemic.
The manufacturing firm announced a redundancy programme on Tuesday, with a proposed reduction of up to 180 jobs across its sites in Northern Ireland - three based in Portadown and one in Banbridge.
The company says it is with 'great regret' that they have taken this 'essential' step - which it says is a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic - namely the impact on the airline industry and related market pressures.In a statement, the company says it will continue to focus on winning new business as the market begins to recover."As Thompson Aero Seating enters into a consultation period with those affected by this development, the company’s immediate priority is to support its employees at this time."
SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly said that the loss is devastating news for local people during a time of crisis.
“Today’s announcement will come as a very severe blow to this workforce and to communities in Portadown and Banbridge.
“My thoughts are with the workers and their families who face a very uncertain future. I want to assure them that I will be exploring every opportunity to provide support to those affected in this industry.
"I will be meeting with Trade Union representatives as soon as possible.
“Should job losses on this scale proceed, it will represent a devastating blow not just to the workers affected and their families, at this time of crisis, but to the economy of Northern Ireland as a whole.
“Aerospace plays a central role in our region’s economic success, but the sector faces huge challenges as a result of the Covid shutdown of the aviation sector leading to a collapse in new orders.
"The Executive cannot afford to sit back and watch – it must now intervene to protect vital industrial capacity, jobs and skills.”
Upper Bann DUP MP Carla Lockhart said: “This is a devastating blow for these employees, their families and the local job market, not just in Upper Bann but the supply chain across Northern Ireland.
"Many of these jobs came to the area when the aviation industry was booming. Sadly, the impact of Covid-19 has decimated this sector and today’s announcement is a reflection of that.
"I have spoken to the company today and sought assurances for support measures for those affected.
"It is time for the Government to look more strategically at the aerospace sector given the impact of Covid-19.
"We must ensure that families depending on this sector continue to have their livelihood. I know the Economy Minister is already aware of the pressures on this sector and has been making this argument in London.
"My thoughts are with the Thompson Aero workers at this time. It is vital they get all available support at this challenging time.”
Alliance Economy spokesperson Stewart Dickson MLA has expressed his concern.
“This is terrible news and my thoughts are with the workers affected,” said Mr Dickson.“It has been a difficult for many industries due to the pandemic but particularly those involved in the aerospace industry due to the lack of travel and related issues. This is clearly due to global factors and not a reflection on the highly-skilled workforce.
“I would encourage the staff to consult with their union representatives and also call on the Economy Minister to do everything she can to assist with retraining and skills audits if necessary.”