Northern Ireland Executive must ensure Chancellor moves on June 10th furlough deadline currently blocking support to 500 Thompson Aero Seating workers

Kieran Ellison1

Kieran Ellison Unite Regional Officer

Government intervention and investment for repurposing needed to preserve Aerospace jobs and skills as sharp downturn leads to empty order books

Kieran Ellison, Unite Regional Officer for Thompson Aero Seating, expressed his union’s dismay at this afternoon’s announcement by Thompson Aero Seating Ltd bosses of plans for five hundred potential redundancies.

“Today’s announcement will come as a very severe blow to this workforce who only weeks ago [in March] suffered more than 430 job-losses, mostly among agency staff, at the onset of the Covid-19 crisis.

“Unite will seek to mitigate the threatened job losses so far as is possible and is seeking for these workers to obtain furlough instead of being made redundant. Should job-losses on this scale proceed, it will represent a devastating blow not just to the workers affected and their families, at this time of crisis, but to the economy of Northern Ireland as a whole. Thompson Aero Seating currently employs a core workforce of approximately 1,200 and at least a further 100 casual workers at its sites at Portadown and Banbridge – it is a regionally significant employer.

“If these workers can be furloughed instead of made redundant it offers some hope to safeguard jobs until demand in the aerospace sector improves. The Northern Ireland Executive must now act to defend these workers’ jobs”, Mr Ellison concluded.

Unite Regional Secretary Jackie Pollock called for urgent action from the Northern Ireland Executive in the face of the challenge facing the Aerospace sector.

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Jackie Pollock, Unite Regional Secretary

“Northern Ireland Aerospace plays a central role in our region’s economic success. But the sector faces huge challenges going forward as a result of the Covid shutdown of the aviation sector leading to a collapse in new orders. The government of Northern Ireland cannot afford to sit back and watch – it must now intervene to protect vital industrial capacity, jobs and skills.

“They must immediately secure movement from the Chancellor on the inflexibility that is currently built into the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. At present, workers must be furloughed before June 10th to receive support under the scheme; however, this is simply not possible where companies have contractual obligations for orders which are due immediately after this date. This is the case in Thompsons Aero Seating and means five hundred workers now face the prospect of redundancy rather than support under the furlough scheme.

“The Executive needs to bring forward a wider programme to safeguard vital industrial capacity. They need to be ready to take equity stakes in leading companies which now face unprecedented challenges and threats. Such investment should be focussed on repurposing production to better meet fundamentally changed economic conditions. The priority must be to save jobs and our skills-base so that our economy is well-positioned to make the most of any bounce-back in coming years”, Mr Pollock concluded.

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