Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer calls on UK Government to save Welsh jobs with flexible furlough during Airbus visit

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called on the UK Government to save jobs in Wales with a reformed furlough scheme.

He was joined by the First Minister on a trip to an aerospace research facility in Broughton, Flintshire where they met with representatives form Airbus.

Airbus announced in July that it would be cutting 1,700 jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 1,400 of those being lost in north Wales.

Credit: PA

Mr Starmer and Mr Drakeford want Welsh Conservative MPs to put pressure on the UK Government to extend the furlough scheme beyond October, when it is due to end.

Mr Starmer said: "The only person capable of extending the furlough scheme is the chancellor. the Welsh Government has done what it can - and actually you can see in Wales people have appreciated the support that has gone in - but the furlough scheme is for central government.

"We cannot have this system where all businesses and all sectors end the support at the same time. It's obvious that flexibility is needed."

Keir Starmer met with Airbus representatives during his visit. Credit: PA

Katherine Bennett, senior vice president of Airbus, met with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Wales's First Minister Mark Drakeford at a research facility.

She said the business was having "constructive discussions" with governments about what support could be given but it was vital people started using air travel again.

Ms Bennett said: "The IATA, the global aviation industry experts, say that flights are down by 70% so we need to get people flying again, we're a long-term industry.

"But the prospects are good if the market restores, which we guess will be in a few years' time. We need to get more aerospace people working in research centres like this."

She said there had been 40% reductions in production at Airbus but praised the way employees and trade union representatives had worked with the business.

Airbus furloughed around 3,200 of workers at its Broughton site. Credit: PA Images

The furlough scheme was extended until 31 October, with employers required to contribute towards their furloughed workers' salaries from August.

Airbus announced it had furloughed approximately 3,200 of its Broughton site workers. The company employs around 6,000 staff in the town.

The scheme currently pays people 80 per cent of their usual earnings, capped at £2,500 per month per worker.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has faced calls for an extension of the scheme from a cross-party group of 113 MPs.

Sir Keir Starmer said: "The UK Government's blanket withdrawal of the furlough scheme is a historic mistake which threatens Welsh jobs.

"We face a jobs crisis on a scale not seen for generations. But it is not too late for the government to act.

"Coronavirus is still with us and it will continue to impact on our economy in Wales for a long time to come.

"The vast majority of people in Wales have followed the rules and made significant sacrifices to help us get coronavirus under control. I believe they would expect the UK Government to support the economy and make sure people have jobs to go back to."

Airbus workers in Broughton assemble wings for the company's product line of commercial aircraft. Credit: PA Images

The Treasury recently announced a £1,000 job retention bonus to protect more jobs, but Mr Sunak warned it would not save everyone and people will lose jobs.

A spokesperson said: "We've acted at scale and at pace during this crisis to protect businesses and support as many jobs as possible.

“The furlough scheme was unprecedented and has so far supported the wages of over 378,000 people in Wales and will run for 8 months in total.

"We continue to support closed sectors through our targeted package of support that includes tax deferrals and VAT cuts, rent moratoriums and loans.

It added that the Welsh Government has also been guaranteed at least £4 billion on top of the funding announced at the Spring Budget.

The Welsh Conservatives said the Welsh Government must "fully use all the extra resource it has to support the people of Wales”.