Redundancies are threatening Britain’s place at the leading edge of aerospace...
The recent announcement of around 3,000 job losses at BAE Systems throws into even deeper doubt the much-promised revival of the manufacturing sector in Britain and the policies espoused by successive governments.
After 900 job losses were announced at Brough, where the Hawk jet is assembled, GMB’s Dave Oglesby said the government had turned their back on the workers and the industry. The 1,400 job cuts at BAE in Warton and Samlesbury prompted Steve Pye (chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses in Fylde, Lancashire, which represents more than 1,000 members) to warn that the county would lose the expertise and brainpower of those BAE staff made redundant. Also hit was the town of Yeovil where 250 jobs were lost at BAE Systems.
David Laws, disgraced MP for South Somerset already “disappointed” with the jobs cut at BAE Systems and at nearby RNAS Yeovilton, said of the fresh redundancies at AugustaWestland, “This is clearly further bad news for South Somerset, in a period where there have been other major local redundancy announcements affecting the defence sector.” Shouldn’t he be angry and also apologising for a lack of coherent government thinking about manufacturing in Britain and the lives of his constituents?
Unite asked its members to sign an online petition to save jobs at BAE Systems in Warton and Brough – and the future of manufacturing in Yorkshire and Lancashire. More than 14,000 people had already signed the e-petition, started by Unite members and supported by trade unions, politicians and the Hull Daily Mail as we went to print.
The significant impact of the job losses, effects on the local communities and devastation to the lives of individuals and families will be documented. The investment in the skills of those being made redundant is immense. It takes approximately 10 years for an aerospace engineer to train and gain sufficient experience.
All-composite A350 XWB wing covers in the new Airbus wing factory at Broughton, Wales; meanwhile, there are job losses in Yorkshire.
Photo: N.Chainey © Airbus S.A.S. 2011
BAE Systems’ own website claims, “The preservation of engineering talent is vital for BAE Systems and through its Skills 2020 programme, the company invests more than £50 million every year in education projects and skills development including training its 1,000 apprentices.” You might expect this from Britain’s largest engineering company, employing 39,000.
According to another website “Rolls-Royce has been training apprentices for over 50 years, and the Group’s apprenticeship programme is an industry leader; awarded Beacon Status by the Learning & Skills Improvement Service, and OFSTED graded the programme as outstanding in all areas. The scheme enjoys a 98 per cent retention rate; 90 per cent of Rolls-Royce apprentices go on to achieve higher qualifications, half to degree level; and over one third of the company’s senior UK managers began their careers as apprentices.”
No doubt the government will claim that there will be support for those losing their jobs, in an attempt to mitigate the disaster which many in the industry think has been allowed to happen by poor procurement policy by successive governments.
Aerospace manufacturing is going through a shake-up. Early October saw US giant United Technologies (which holds Pratt & Whitney aero engines and Hamilton Sundstrand in its portfolio of companies) agreeing to purchase Goodrich Corporation, another large US conglomerate. UT, valued at $68 billion, agreed to pay $18 billion for Goodrich. Both companies employ thousands of workers involved in engineering in many companies throughout Britain.
Goodrich and Hamilton Sundstrand employees might fear for their positions in the future when merged and synergy activity takes place even though it is claimed that most of the companies do not compete for work. Goodrich sites are in Leighton Buzzard, Birmingham and Wolverhampton. Hamilton sites are located near Bristol, Wolverhampton, Colnbrook (Berkshire) and Sunbury-on-Thames (Middlesex).
Wrapped up in this change is another Midlands-based company, Aero Engine Controls, a joint venture between Rolls-Royce Holdings and Goodrich Corporation with a history dating back 60 years.
In establishing the joint venture both parent companies will have transferred around £14 million of assets and cash into Aero Engine Controls. Aero Engine Controls has around 1,330 employees, comprising staff transferred from the two parent companies, and has sites in Derby, Birmingham, Belfast and Indianapolis.
With a merger of two Birmingham-based sites to one new site located near Birmingham International Airport, a distinct possibility in the near future is that workers at AEC may find themselves affected by the purchase of Goodrich by UT.
The loss of jobs in the defence area of aircraft production goes on with a backdrop of rising order books for civil aircraft product as the two big aeroplane makers ramp up production of the new Boeing787 and the Airbus A350 and A380 – all with super efficient engines (20 per cent more efficient than previous designs) which are supposed to reduce harmful emissions – to replace ageing fleets.
Around 140,000 jobs are generated in Britain by Airbus wing work, directly as well as indirectly through supplier contracts. And recently Paul McKinlay, head of the Airbus north Wales site where wings are manufactured, said: “Broughton has got an extremely proud history, 70 years of aviation history. It's great we are staying ahead of the technology with state-of-the-art materials and state-of-the-art manufacturing processes. I'm delighted that Broughton is part of that. For our employees, this new factory – this aircraft [the A350] signals security of employment for the coming years at Broughton, and with 6,000 employees here that's absolutely great news.”
As of mid June 2010 there were around 110,000 workers employed directly in the aerospace industry in Britain. To lose those in defence production will potentially undermine the entire industry. ■