Unite, the East of England’s leading union, is warning that the region’s world-beating aerospace industry is at ‘five to midnight’, staring at the loss of thousands of highly skilled jobs and tens of millions in economic contribution unless the sector receives urgent support from the government.

The union is appealing to the people of the region to get behind its campaign to keep jobs and incomes in the community.

Huge decline in demand

With a huge decline in new orders and maintenance work – a knock-on effect from the pandemic hit to the aviation sector – many more jobs are at risk in the industry right across the region.

Jobs warning

Unite issued its jobs warning following the publication of a new report by economic experts Acuity Analysis, which details the challenges facing the East of England region and the entire UK aerospace sector. The analysis profiles the importance of the sector to the region’s economy and reveals: 

  • The East of England region is heavily reliant on the aerospace industry, with 6,700 workers being employed in the sector.
  • There are 475 employers in the region split between 110 manufacturing companies and 365 companies specialising in the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of aircraft.
  • Major aerospace employers in the region include BAE Systems, Bombardier, GKN, Marshalls, MBDA, Safran and Leonardo.
  • The sector is incredibly valuable for the region generating £863 million in gross value added per annum.
  • The greatest number of aerospace employers are in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.

Crippling effect

According to Unite, which has been battling for sector support since March, large-scale job losses would have a crippling effect on both East England's and the nation's economies: 5,000 aerospace jobs lost would see more than £2 billion wiped off the UK’s economic output.

Unite has been pressing the UK government to follow the lead of competitor nations such as France and Germany to establish an investment programme for the sector to survive, rebuild and recover. A central call from the union is for the government to extend the jobs retention scheme to prevent the premature loss of more jobs and skills while the sector works to build back.

Crucial to regional economy

Unite regional co-ordinating officer for aerospace in the East of England, Ian Maidlow, said: “Aerospace is absolutely crucial to the East of England’s economy but the lack of action at Westminster means we now stand at five to midnight and could be looking at a very bleak future.

“Jobs are going by the day and our world-leading status is slipping away as other nations sense the competitive advantage in our government’s inaction.

“Without the support this sector is crying out for we will lose thousands of the highly skilled, secure jobs that we are told the UK needs and that the government wishes to encourage.

“It is a travesty that the government has not followed the lead of other countries including France and Germany to provide specific support for what is a world class industry. Worse still, the UK government's silence on support gives our competitors a business advantage.

“We are pleading with the government. Waste no more time. Be clear that the JRS will be extended for the sector to preserve skills and jobs, and bring forward a package of support for the aerospace sector which would not only preserve jobs in the East of England but be the shot in the arm the national economy desperately needs.”

Unite is urging everyone who is employed directly in the aerospace industry or indirectly associated with it to contact their MP and ask them to lobby the government for support for the sector.

Support needed

Ian Maidlow added: “If you work in the East of England’s aerospace sector or know someone who does, then please help us save this flagship industry and keep our communities in work. Pick up the phone to your MP or drop them an email. Only by speaking up together can we win the future our workers absolutely deserve.”


Notes to Editors

Workers and others looking to lobby their MPs in support of the sector can do so via this link: https://unitetheunion.org/ukaerospace/

Unite’s plan for the industry is based around three clear aims for the sector: Survive, Rebuild and Recover.  The full details can be read in the report (INSERT LINK) but in summary embrace


Sector support similar in scope and ambition to that unveiled by the French and Germany governments.

Continuation of the government’s job retention scheme (JRS) plus a shorter working week scheme, which has been effective in saving Germany jobs.


A government-supported aircraft replacement scheme to help the aviation sector dramatically reduce its carbon footprint. Production and parts must come from UK

Research and Development increased and the current 50/50 ratio between government and companies changed to 80/20 to bring us in line with those of France and Germany.


Continued support for aerospace apprenticeships to close the growing skills gap across an ageing workforce.

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: barckley.sumner@unitetheunion.org

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.