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Create taskforce to save Northern Ireland aerospace jobs, Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged

Ministers join with union in initiative as 1,800 workers face axe

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Job losses: Bombardier plant in Belfast is seeking redundancies

Job losses: Bombardier plant in Belfast is seeking redundancies

Job losses: Bombardier plant in Belfast is seeking redundancies

Northern Ireland's First and Deputy First Ministers have called on the Prime Minister to initiate an aerospace taskforce to mitigate the damage to the sector during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Both Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill as well as Unite the Union, collectively called on Boris Johnson to urgently establish the recovery organisation, which could prevent the loss of up to 1,800 jobs here.

They put their names and signatures to a letter alongside the first ministers for Scotland and Wales.

First Minister Arlene Foster said: "The pandemic has understandably resulted in a drop in passenger numbers. This has had a devastating impact on the wider aerospace sector with grounded fleets leading to reduced demand for new aircraft, as well as maintenance and repair.

"The sector is crucial for Northern Ireland and everything possible must be done to ensure it receives maximum protection.

"Maintaining air connectivity is vital to our longer term economic recovery. We have written to the Prime Minister to underscore the importance of intervention and to urge him to establish an aerospace taskforce as a first step in addressing the impacts being felt by the sector at this time."

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said: "Our local aerospace sector is hugely important, not just to the economy but to people's lives and livelihoods. We have already seen job losses in this area and the immense pressure caused by the pandemic has the potential to have further devastating consequences.

"The Executive is committed to doing everything it can to protect the sector, but we need to see immediate intervention from the British Government. Boris Johnson has a responsibility to step up and provide the support that's desperately needed to safeguard the future of this sector and its workers. Ministers have joined with Unite the Union calling on him to take urgent action to preserve capability and prevent further losses."

A workers' union has said that up to 1800 jobs are at threat here in the sector.

In July Co Down-based Collins Aerospace announced 235 employees would not be returning to work at the end of their furlough period.

And in June, Bombardier in east Belfast announced it was seeking to make 400 voluntary redundancies among its core staff, as well as "releasing" 200 temporary workers.

At the beginning of September, Bombardier also said it would be moving to a four-day week for staff as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to staff, seen by the Belfast Telegraph, the firm said that it would now close its Belfast plant on Fridays.

It read: "As an industry, we know that our recovery will take considerably longer than other areas of the economy, and while in some ways it may feel like things are 'getting back to normal' in our society, we must accept that the situation for aerospace will continue to be volatile in the months to come."

Regional secretary Jackie Pollock said: "In Northern Ireland, we have an unfolding crisis in the sector with already 1,800 job losses threatened and the prospect of more with the reduction in furlough supports."

"The Prime Minister must now respond positively to this initiative and ensure that every possible tool will be used alongside measures being enacted by the devolved administrations in order to preserve jobs and to sustain the aerospace sector throughout and beyond the Covid-19 crisis," he added.

Belfast Telegraph