Airbus to cut jobs in Bristol as global impact of Covid-19 pandemic devastates aerospace industry

July 1, 2020

Hundreds of jobs at Airbus’s Filton plant are at risk after the European aerospace giant announced plans to reduce its UK workforce by 1,700.

The group said the cuts would fall on its commercial aircraft division, which is likely to be hit hard by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic impact on global aviation. 

Airbus employs around 4,500 people at its Filton plant, mainly engineers designing wings, landing gear and fuel systems for its commercial airliners, although work is also carried out on its military aircraft.

A further 6,000 work at a sister plant in Broughton, North Wales, mainly on wing assembly. Airbus said 1,116 UK manufacturing posts will be axed alongside 611 office-based jobs. More details of where the jobs will be shed is expected by the end of this week.

The cuts represent nearly 15% of Airbus’s 135,000-strong global workforce and will take place before the end of next year, the group said. Jobs will also be lost at Airbus manufacturing sites in France, Germany and Spain.

The Covid-19 pandemic has already hit Bristol’s aerospace sector with 50 jobs going at Rolls-Royce’s aero-engine plant at Filton and GKN Aerospace, which assembles wing parts for Airbus and other planemakers at Filton seeking an unspecified number of redundancies.

Jobs could also be at risk in the network of smaller firms making up the supply chains of these ‘tier one’ manufacturers.

In March Airbus announced a cut in commercial aircraft production by a third, extending its Easter shutdown and putting some workers on furlough as it sought to prepare for a marked slowdown in new orders from airlines impacted by the near collapse in global air travel.

At the time Airbus warned that it was “bleeding cash at an unprecedented speed”. Yesterday chief executive Guillaume Faury said it was facing its “gravest crisis” ever experienced by the aerospace industry and that it did not expect air traffic to get back to pre-pandemic levels until 2023 at the earliest.

“The measures we have taken so far have enabled us to absorb the initial shock of this global pandemic,” he said.

“Now, we must ensure that we can sustain our enterprise and emerge from the crisis as a healthy, global aerospace leader, adjusting to the overwhelming challenges of our customers.

“To confront that reality, we must now adopt more far-reaching measures.

“Our management team and our board of directors are fully committed to limiting the social impact of this adaptation

“We thank our governmental partners as they help us preserve our expertise and know-how as much as possible and have played an important role in limiting the social impact of this crisis in our industry.

“The Airbus teams and their skills and competences will enable us to pursue our ambition to pioneer a sustainable future for aerospace.”

However, the assistant general secretary of the Unite union, Steve Turner, described the move as “yet another act of industrial vandalism” adding it was a “terrible insult to our incredible UK workforce who deserve so much better from our government”.

“Over the weeks of this crisis, this country’s aerospace jobs have gone hand over fist yet not one word of support or act of assistance has been forthcoming from the government,” he said.

“The UK government is watching from the sidelines while a national asset is destroyed.”

Labour’s shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon called for more government support.

“Labour has consistently called for an extension to the furlough in the most impacted industries, and a sectoral deal that supports the whole aviation industry including securing jobs and protecting the supply chain, while continuing to press for higher environmental standards,” he said.

A government spokesman said: “We understand this will be a difficult time for Airbus’s employees and their families, and we stand ready to support anyone affected in any way we can.

“We will continue to work closely with the sector to ensure firms are able to rebuild as the civil aviation market recovers.”

The job losses at Airbus showed the government needed to do more to help the sector, UK aerospace lobby group ADS chief executive Paul Everitt said

“Being the largest commercial aircraft company in the UK, Airbus is central to our aerospace industry and has a close relationship with its highly integrated UK supply chain.

“This difficult news will be unsettling for their employees and those working as part of the supply chain,” he said.

Wing parts designed and built at Filton and Broughton and a plant in Bremen, Germany, are transported to aircraft assembly plants in Toulouse, France, Hamburg in Germany and Seville, Spain, under Airbus’s Europe-wide manufacturing process.

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