An announcement that a manufacturer of aircraft seating with facilities In Portadown and Banbride is to cut 180 jobs has been branded a “severe blow” to the local communities.
Chinese-owned Thompson Aero had previous announced cuts to 500 workers at the Portadown site last year.
Upper Bann DUP MP Carla Lockhart said the news was a devastating blow for employees, their families and the local job market.
“Many of these jobs came to the area when the aviation industry was booming. Sadly, the impact of Covid-19 has decimated this sector and today’s announcement is a reflection of that,” Ms Lockhart said.
“I have spoken to the company today and sought assurances for support measures for those affected. It is time for the Government to look more strategically at the aerospace sector given the impact of Covid-19.
“We must ensure that families depending on this sector continue to have their livelihood. I know the Economy Minister is already aware of the pressures on this sector and has been making this argument in London.
“My thoughts are with the Thompson Aero workers at this time. It is vital they get all available support at this challenging time,” she added.
SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly has called on the Executive to intervene to protect the sector.
“Today’s announcement will come as a very severe blow to this workforce and to communities in Portadown and Banbridge,” she said.
“My thoughts are with the workers and their families who face a very uncertain future. I want to assure them that I will be exploring every opportunity to provide support to those affected in this industry. I will be meeting with Trade Union representatives as soon as possible.
“Should job losses on this scale proceed, it will represent a devastating blow not just to the workers affected and their families, at this time of crisis, but to the economy of Northern Ireland as a whole.
“Aerospace plays a central role in our region’s economic success, but the sector faces huge challenges as a result of the Covid shutdown of the aviation sector leading to a collapse in new orders.
“The Executive cannot afford to sit back and watch – it must now intervene to protect vital industrial capacity, jobs and skills.”
The job losses represent around a quarter of the total workforce.
Unite the Union’s Jackie Pollock said the announcement was “confirmation that the Stormont Executive is completely failing the aerospace sector and its workforce”.
“We don’t need vision statements or words recognising the vital importance of Aerospace – we need action. Action to protect jobs and vital skills during an exceptional downturn.
“Across Europe, governments have intervened to safeguard their aviation and aerospace sectors – meanwhile London and Belfast have effectively sat on their hands while jobs are slashed.”
Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Kevin Savage said the news depicts another devastating blow to the local and regional economy.
Cllr Savage added: “I have no doubt that this news will have a significant impact on many families and additional local businesses, with far reaching consequences throughout the borough. This news reflects the global impact of Covid-19 on key business sectors such as manufacturing and engineering, which will have severe repercussions for other associated businesses within our local economy.
“I will be writing to the Northern Ireland Executive to ascertain what additional measures can be implemented immediately to support this sector and the families impacted by this news today. Council’s Economic Development Department has enacted its redundancy protocol and is actively working with the Department for Communities and Invest Northern Ireland to assist.”