Union Unite is due to start negotiating with the Chinese-owned firm which was hit badly by the pandemic due to lack of new aircraft being built.
SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly described the news as ‘devastating’ and a ‘severe blow to the communities in Portadown and Banbridge’.
A spokesperson from the firm said: “Thompson Aero Seating has today announced a redundancy programme with a proposed reduction of up to 180 jobs across its sites in Northern Ireland (three based in Portadown and one in Banbridge).
“It is with great regret that the company has taken this essential step, which is a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact it has had on the travel and airline industry and related market pressures.
“The company will continue to focus on winning new business as the market begins to slowly recover.
“As Thompson Aero Seating enters into a consultation period with those affected by this development, the company’s immediate priority is to support its employees at this time.”
Mrs Kelly said: “Today’s announcement will come as a very severe blow to this workforce and to communities in Portadown and Banbridge,
“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.”
Kieran Ellison, Regional Officer for Unite confirmed his union had been informed of approximately 180 redundancies at Thompson’s Aero-seating and would be engaging with his union’s membership on their response.
“Today’s announcement of 180 jobs – or approximately one-quarter of the workforce – will come as grim news to our members who work in Thompson’s Aero-seating in Craigavon and Banbridge. We will be engaging our members on our response to what is an entirely unnecessary attack on Northern Ireland workers and skills base.
“Thompson’s Aero-seating is owned by Chinese state-owned aerospace and defence company AVIC. This is not a corporation which needs to make these redundancies to achieve profitability – in the midst of an unprecedented Covid downturn, AVIC has just reported £1.72 billion in profits in 2020.
“The latest forecasts for aviation confirm that air travel will bounce back more rapidly than previously expected. The latest figures from the International Air Transport Association suggest air passenger numbers will be back to 52 percent this year rising to 88 percent in 2022 and will surpass pre-Covid levels by 5 percent in 2023,” Mr Ellison said.
Unite Regional Secretary Jackie Pollock challenged the Stormont Executive on its failure to bring forward specific measures to support the Aerospace sector.
“Today’s announcement is the latest confirmation that the Stormont Executive is completely failing the Aerospace sector and its workforce. Instead of bringing forward flashy new economic strategies replete with every buzzword going about the ambitions for future growth – we need action now.
“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. Unite has been calling for a suite of actions to cushion Northern Ireland Aviation and Aerospace industries since the beginning of this pandemic but Stormont has stood idly by.
“The Economy Minister must end the complacency. Business as usual is not working. It’s not working for workers and it is not going to safeguard higher value-added production skills such as those at Thompsons Aero-seating”, Mr Pollock concluded.
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