Shorter working week could help save Broughton jobs says Airbus boss as local politicians call on UK government to ‘act now’
Politicians from across North Wales are calling on the UK government to take “immediate action” to secure the future of the aerospace sector in the region.
Airbus confirmed yesterday it had begun talks with unions on reducing its Broughton workforce by 1,435 positions, a further 235 jobs at Filton Bristol will go.
The move follows Tuesday’s announcement the aerospace giant is to shed 15,000 jobs globally as it deals with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, Airbus supplier Metal Improvement Company (MIC) indicated it intends to make almost 60 workers redundant its site in Broughton.
Another Airbus supplier, Magellan Aerospace in Llay said it had begun a consultation process which will result in 240 workers being made redundant.
Guidant Global which provides agency staff to Airbus Broughton has put 500 workers under notice of redundancy, many have worked at the site for years.
Minister for Economy and North Wales Ken Skates said the loss of 1,435 jobs at Airbus Broughton is a huge blow for the region and the industry.
“My thoughts are with all those affected – the workers, their families and wider community.
All governments must work together and we are ready to work with the UK Government.
I repeat my call to them that immediate and radical action now needs to be taken to secure the future of the aerospace sector.” He said.
Alyn and Deeside MP Mark Tami said the “ball is in Boris Johnson’s court” and called on him to “act now.”
“I invite all North Wales and North West MPs to join me in demanding the Prime Minister and Chancellor do the right thing.” The Labour MP said.
Delyn MP Rob Roberts said he has meetings arranged with the Minister in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to “discuss what further support the UK Government can provide to the sector and workers in North Wales.”
Paul McKinlay, Airbus Senior Vice President UK said he hoped job losses at Broughton could be achieved through “voluntary means and early retirement and said, “we will look at all options to try to avoid compulsory redundancies.”
Shorter working week
Speaking to Deeside.com, the Airbus boss said other “mechanisms” like a shorter working week could help save jobs at Broughton.
He said, “I think it’s important to say that we’re not asking for an extension of the current furlough scheme.
We all know from the Exchequer it’s extremely expensive, at the end of the day, the furlough scheme was to help employees who were not at work.”
“A shorter working week is something we’d be keen to explore as part of the consultation, I know Unite union will talk to us on that as it has been tried before in other industries.” Mr McKinlay said.
“What we’re talking about is a reduction of 5, 10, 15 percent in the working week with some of that shortfall in wages partially funded by the UK and or Welsh Government.
So we’re not talking about anywhere near the level of [financial] support seen with the current furlough scheme.”
“Discussions have been undertaken and we continue to have dialogue. The consultation process will run for many weeks, and we will explore all avenues during that period.”
In Germany, Airbus employees have been benefited from the Kurzarbeit or shorter work-time working arrangement,
Under the scheme, companies hit by a downturn can send their workers home, or radically reduce their hours, and the state will replace a large part of their lost income.
Unlike the British furlough scheme, which forces firms to send workers home and not work, German firms can allow staff to work part-time, reducing the cost.
Airbus Chief Executive Guillaume Faury told German magazine Spiegel the plane maker is “discussing the restructuring with the governments in Germany and our other home countries.
He said, “longer-term short-time work and government support for research and development could help secure jobs until recovery begins.
For example, engineers could be temporarily transferred to the research area.”
“We are discussing many options with our employee representatives, and the four-day week is one of them.
We are already considering reducing weekly working hours to spread the work across more employees.
However, this does not solve all problems.” Mr Faury said.
Mr McKinlay said: “Based on the analysis we have today, we predict the first signs of recovery in the single-aisle (aircraft) market, towards the end, 2021 and into 2022.
If you use that logic you’d say [we’d need financial] support for around an 18 month period.”
The Welsh government said it has identified 150 suppliers employing around 1500 staff who will “almost certainly be affected” by the jobs announcement at Airbus Broughton.
“We’ve been in dialogue with all of our suppliers and customers since day one of the crisis back in March and we continue to do so.” Said Mr McKinlay
“It’s essential for us to be ready for recovery and we need our supply chain partners to be ready as well.
We continue to work with them to help them through the crisis, to make sure that they have the right access to support governments may be ready, we’ll continue to do that as the days and weeks go forward.
The devastating impact to the industry applies equally to those suppliers as it does as well, just like Airbus has lost 40 percent of its production rate, that applies equally to our suppliers as well.” He added.
Mr McKinlay said deliveries of new jets are still taking place, but airlines are deferring orders.
“Current air traffic is only about 30 percent of the level it was before the crisis erupted and airports and managing around 90 percent fewer flights.”
The Senior Vice President said, “airlines are not so keen obviously to take new aircraft but what we’re seeing is not cancellations (of orders) but airlines delaying the delivery of aircraft.”
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