Celtic nations unite to demand creation of a UK Aerospace Taskforce

Unite Scotland and the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, are signatories to a letter involving the Leaders of the Devolved Administrations of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, calling for ‘urgent intervention’ by the UK Government to preserve highly-skilled jobs in the UK aerospace sector.

The initiative has brought together the First Ministers of the Devolved Administrations Nicola Sturgeon, Arlene Foster, Mark Drakeford, and the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill, and the leaders of Unite in each respective nation. The letter calls for the immediate establishment of a UK Aerospace Taskforce in order that government, business and trade unions collectively work together to support businesses, workers and communities.

In July, Unite commissioned a report produced by the nation’s leading economic research institute Strathclyde University’s Fraser of Allander Institute (FAI) following a spate of redundancy consultations and voluntary severance schemes at Rolls Royce (Inchinnan), GE Caledonian, Spirit Aerosystems and Wyman Gordon. The FAI estimated that the total impact of the 1,225 proposed job losses at these companies including spill-over effects is associated with a £185m loss in Gross Value Added and a decrease in employment of 2,530 across the Scottish economy.

In June, the Scottish Government also established an Aerospace Response Group with the direct participation of Unite along with industry, trade unions, central and local government with the aim of preserving Scotland’s aerospace manufacturing and R&D capability, and safeguarding jobs. The measure was announced in response to Rolls Royce announcing 700 jobs were to go at its Inchinnan factory.

The joint letter acknowledges that it will take 3 – 5 years for the sector to return to 'pre-crisis levels' and that 'urgent intervention' by the UK Government is essential because many of the tools required to support the sector throughout and beyond the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic are not devolved.

In response to the joint initiative Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, 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."

“The Scottish Government has established an Aerospace Response group to help address the significant challenges the sector is facing as a result of COVID-19. We would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with other governments as part of a UK-wide Aerospace Taskforce, and I call in the UK Government to recognise the scale of the problem and to establish this without further delay.”

Pat Rafferty, Unite Scottish Secretary, added: “Unite is delighted to bring together the Leaders of the Devolved Administrations in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales in a joint initiative to safeguard jobs in the aerospace sector. 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.

“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 Scotland, we have an unfolding crisis in the sector following a spate of redundancies which risks a £185m blow to the economy. We hope the Prime Minister responds positively to this initiative and that every possible tool will be used alongside measures being enacted by the Devolved Administrations in order to preserve jobs, and to sustain the aerospace sector throughout and beyond the Covid-19 crisis.”

ENDS

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Prime Minister,

The global pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the aerospace sector across the whole of the UK and urgent intervention is now required to preserve capability and avert further damaging losses.

The collapse in demand for global air travel has had a significant impact upon the aerospace sector, through reductions for new aircraft and for Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) activities due to grounded fleets. Whilst the general consensus is that it will take 3 – 5 years for the sector to return to pre-crisis levels there is further uncertainty given the resurgence of COVID-19 being witnessed across Europe and the possibility of further outbreaks in the future.

Whilst our respective governments are doing our part to protect our sectors we recognise that the severity of the immediate crisis goes beyond the tools available to us and requires urgent intervention from your Government. To that end, and further to the letter from the economy secretaries on 9th July, we collectively seek the UK Government’s agreement to urgently establish and convene an Aerospace Taskforce. This must include active participation from the Devolved Administrations and the appropriate level of representation from all key stakeholders including trade unions and aerospace businesses in order to identify the industry specific challenges and develop appropriate responses to support the businesses, workers and communities at risk.

The scale of this challenge cannot be underestimated and each government is absolutely determined and committed to its role in retaining the capability and expertise that enables the UK to retain its position in the global aerospace sector. We must do all we can to save jobs and mitigate the devastating impact on the sector and its workforce.

The establishment of an Aerospace Taskforce would be a positive signal to the sector highlighting that all our governments remain committed to working together in order to preserve this sector that is hugely important to the whole of the UK but we must act now.

Signatories

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland

Mark Drakeford, First Minister of Wales

Arlene Foster, First Minister of Northern Ireland

Michelle O’Neill, deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland

Pat Rafferty, Regional Secretary, Unite the Union, Scotland

Peter Hughes, Regional Secretary, Unite the Union, Wales

Jackie Pollock, Regional Secretary, Unite the Union, Ireland