The first ministers of the UK’s devolved nations are asking the government for “urgent” aid for the aerospace sector.
A joint letter signed by Nicola Sturgeon of Scotland, Arlene Foster of Northern Ireland and Mark Drakeford of Wales outlines the catastrophic impact of coronavirus on the industry and urges the UK government to launch a taskforce to support it.
The leaders of the union Unite, which organised the initiative, have also signed the letter, warning that tens of thousands of aerospace jobs could be lost forever without government aid.
In May, MPs were told that up to 8,000 jobs could be lost in the Welsh aerospace sector, while Scotland is likely to lose over 1,200 jobs at companies like GE Caledonian and Rolls-Royce, and Northern Irish companies plan to lay off over 1,300 workers.
The letter urged the creation of an aerospace taskforce on the basis that it would be a “positive signal” to the sector and show the commitment of all national governments in the UK to work together to keep the sector afloat. It also stressed the urgency of the situation and asked MPs to intervene quickly to prevent more losses.
The taskforce would include the governments of all countries in the UK, as well as aerospace companies and unions.
Nicola Sturgeon emphasised that with the end of the furlough scheme approaching, there could be further dramatic job losses, and repeated her call for the British government to extend the furlough scheme, especially for struggling sectors like aerospace, to avoid a severe and lasting impact.
In Scotland, an aerospace response group has already been set up by Ms. Sturgeon’s government to provide support for the industry and prevent thousands more permanent job losses.
Pat Rafferty, the secretary of Unite in Scotland, said the UK government needed to step up to prevent Scottish aerospace suffering a £185 million loss.
The British government has not yet made an official decision about the creation of the taskforce. However, in response to the letter, a spokesperson from the government did pledge to continue support for the aerospace sector, emphasising that more than £8.5bn in loans, grants and export guarantees had already been allocated to the ailing industry, and a further £2bn had been invested in R&D to develop new tech for safer, greener air travel, which in turn would create more jobs.