1,700 jobs at risk as Airbus faces 'unprecedented crisis'

Video report by Work and Economy Correspondent Carole Green

Aerospace giant Airbus is planning to cut 1,700 jobs in the UK as a result of the coronavirus crisis, the company has announced.

The news is a huge blow to its site at Broughton, where more than 800 sets of wings are manufactured each year, and its other factory at Filton in Bristol.

Airbus employs around 6,000 highly skilled workers at Broughton – with more than double that in the supply chain.

Daz Reynolds has worked at Airbus in Broughton for 25 years and said the plant means everything to people. "There's always somebody who knows someone who works for Airbus. Everybody knows it. It means everything to us here. People are unsure of their futures, people have got bills to pay like everybody else."

As a result of Covid-19 around 70% of passenger fleets were grounded in April. Airbus has estimated this could have cost the sector globally more than $300bn.  

  • Watch the report by Rob Osborne about how local communities close to Broughton have reacted to the news:

The company is cutting 15,000 jobs across its global operations.

A company statement said: "Airbus has announced plans to adapt its global workforce and resize its commercial aircraft activity in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

"This adaptation is expected to result in a reduction of around 15,000 positions no later than summer 2021."

Airbus said commercial aircraft business activity has dropped by almost 40% in recent months as the industry faces an "unprecedented" crisis.

The statement continued: "With air traffic not expected to recover to pre-Covid levels before 2023 and potentially as late as 2025, Airbus now needs to take additional measures to reflect the post Covid-19 industry outlook."

Speaking at the Welsh Government's daily briefing, Economy Minister Ken Skates said he "will not abandon the Airbus workforce" and called on the UK Government to take "decisive action" to save the aviation sector in the UK.

"We have invested in Airbus - but nobody could have seen coronavirus appearing so suddenly and having such a devastating impact for the sector."

He added: "There is no reason to believe that all 1,700 UK Airbus jobs will go from Broughton. However, we are preparing for a significant proportion to be lost."

Airbus is also planning to cut 5,000 jobs in France, 5,100 in Germany, 900 in Spain and 1,300 positions at its other worldwide sites.

Chief executive of Airbus, Guillaume Faury Credit: PA Images

Chief executive of Airbus Guillaume Faury said: "Airbus is facing the gravest crisis this industry has ever experienced.

"The measures we have taken so far have enabled us to absorb the initial shock of this global pandemic. Now, we must ensure that we can sustain our enterprise and emerge from the crisis as a healthy, global aerospace leader, adjusting to the overwhelming challenges of our customers."

Airbus said compulsory redundancies cannot be ruled out at this stage, adding it will work with its social partners to limit the impact of its plans by relying on all available social measures, including voluntary departures, early retirement, and long term partial unemployment schemes where appropriate.

Airbus employs around 6,000 people at its plant in Broughton Credit: PA Images

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: "This is yet another act of industrial vandalism and a terrible insult to our incredible UK workforce who deserve so much better from our government.

Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart said: "Airbus is a vital part of the North Wales economy so this is extremely worrying news for workers, their families and the wider community.

"I have spoken to Airbus this week and will continue to work closely with the company, the trade unions and the Welsh Government to do everything we can to support employees and those affected in the wider supply chain.

"The UK Government has already taken wide-ranging action to support companies since the start of the pandemic.

MP for Alun and Deeside Mark Tami told ITV News it is "clearly devastating news for Broughton" and a long term strategy is needed.

Paul Everitt, chief executive of trade body ADS described it as the "toughest period the global aerospace industry has ever faced.

He said, "Being the largest commercial aircraft company in the UK, Airbus is central to our aerospace industry. This difficult news will be unsettling for their employees and those working as part of the supply chain.

He called for "further measures" from the government to support the sector.

"This should include increased investment in UK innovation, help to recapitalise the supply chain and using public procurement to support high-value UK manufacturing."