Drakeford joins First Ministers in urging PM to help save struggling aerospace industry

Unite the union said there has already been thousands of redundancies across the UK, including more than 1,400 at Airbus' Flintshire site. Credit: Airbus

Mark Drakeford has joined forces with the First Ministers of Scotland and Northern Ireland to demand urgent action from the UK Government to save the struggling aerospace sector.

In a letter written alongside his Scottish and Irish counterparts Nicola Sturgeon, Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill, Mr Drakeford urged Boris Johnson to set up a specialist task force to help the industry – which has been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes as the end of the UK Government furlough scheme approaches, which many industries have warned could result in more job losses.

Unite the union claimed there have already been thousands of redundancies in the sector, including more than 1,400 in north Wales.

Aerospace giant Airbus confirmed in July that 1,435 jobs would be cut from its plant in Broughton in Flintshire, after being "significantly impacted" by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The site, which makes wings, employs around 6,000 workers with more than double that in the supply chain.

In the same month, GE Aviation announced 369 job losses at its engineering plant in Nantgarw in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

Mark Drakeford called on the UK Government to act immediately. Credit: Welsh Government

The four political leaders said the creation of an aerospace task force "would be a positive signal to the sector".

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: "As we approach the closure of the furlough scheme at the end of October, there is a real possibility of significant job losses across the UK. 

“We have repeatedly called for the UK Government to reconsider its position and to extend the scheme, especially for sectors that have been particularly hard-hit like aerospace.

"Recognising where key economic powers lie, we need to see sector-specific approaches for these parts of the economy from the UK Government or the long-term impact will be severe. 

“Wales would welcome the opportunity to work with the rest of the UK as part of an aerospace taskforce to help safeguard this important sector and the many thousands of people employed in Wales."

The UK Government said it is working closely with the sector. Credit: PA Images

Mr Drakeford said on Friday that he has not had contact with Mr Johnson since a brief phone call in May, which he added is "simply unacceptable".

He called on the Prime Minister to "engage" with the devolved nations during "this most difficult time".

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.

Peter Hughes, Unite Wales Secretary

Mr Hughes added: "It’s clear that many of the measures required to support the sector reside with the UK Government, which is why we are collectively asking the Prime Minister to immediately establish a UK aerospace taskforce to coordinate support.

"In Wales, we have seen devastating job losses within the aerospace sector. During the coronavirus crisis we have seen thousands of redundancies announced at Airbus, GE, Magellan and British Airways.

"These are many of the best manufacturing jobs that we have in Wales. The crisis is also having a hugely detrimental impact within the aerospace supply chain in Wales. The sector desperately needs the support of UK Government."

The UK Government said it is working closely with the sector and has supported the industry with more than £8.5 billion in funding.

It added that it is investing nearly £2 billion in developing safer and greener air travel and creating more jobs.