‘UK Government needs to play active role in helping secure future of Airbus’ says Ken Skates
“It’s vitally important UK government plays a full and active role in helping secure the long term future of Airbus in UK”, economy and transport minister Ken Skates said during a press briefing on Friday.
Airbus revealed a 49% drop in first-quarter operating profits last week as the impact of the coronavirus crisis takes its toll on the planemaker.
Chief Executive Guillaume Faury said: “We are now in the midst of the gravest crisis the aerospace industry has ever known.
“We’re implementing a number of measures to ensure the future of Airbus.”
That includes around half of the staff at the Airbus wing factory in Broughton being furloughed.
The UK government’s job retention scheme will pay 80% of wages, Airbus is expected to top up salaries by a further 5-10%.
The furlough periods of production and support staff will be staggered over the next three weeks.
At the same time hundreds of highly skilled contract workers employed at Airbus by Guidant Global – many of them have been working at Broughton for years – were told they face redundancy.
Mr Skates, who is also minister for North Wales, said: “It’s fair to say that the entire global aerospace industry is facing an unprecedented challenge right now.
“We’re working incredibly closely with the company in support of the highly skilled individuals that work at Broughton and at the various businesses that rely on Airbus.
“In terms of the 3000 people who have been furloughed, we’re determined to work with Airbus to ensure that they are able to return to those well paid highly skills roles that they that they’ve been able to occupy before coronavirus.”
“The most important project, in my view right now is the securing of the ‘Wings of Tomorrow’ program.
“I’ve written to Airbus HQ in Toulouse seeking assurance that that project is going ahead as planned, as scheduled, and that Broughton will be developing the prototype with a view of being able to secure that vitally important production of the next generation of wings.”
He continued: “The issues that we face in Broughton go far beyond Wales, and it’s vitally important the UK government plays a full and active role in helping us to secure the long term future of Airbus across the UK.
“I have raised on a weekly basis with UK government ministers the need for direct intervention to support the aero industry and specifically Airbus.
“I’m pleased to say that my counterparts are very, very aware of the challenges that the aerospace industry faces right now, I just await now their specific response.”
Mr Skates said it requires intervention at the UK level in order to ensure that those furloughed workers Airbus get into work as soon as possible.
He said: “We are able to support Airbus to a certain degree through the economic resilience fund, with skills training packages and with support for workers who are furloughed in terms of acquiring new skills.
“It’s the UK government that has by far the deepest pockets and has the ability to intervene on the UK level in order to ensure that those furloughed workers get into work as soon as possible and to ensure that Airbus comes out of coronavirus at the least as strong in the market as it was.”
“Airbus is a giant – it has immense potential in the future to become even more competitive.
“Boeing, obviously are their main competitors but is struggling terribly right now.
“The whole of the sector is facing great challenge and Airbus, because of its competitiveness, because of the work of highly skilled and loyal employees in the UK and European is in a very strong position to emerge from this, with its place in the market.
“The key consideration for us right now in the short and medium term is in how we ensure all of those skilled employees stay within the sector and stay within service.”
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