British Airways: Hundreds of south Wales jobs under threat

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British Airways had grounded a lot of its fleet at Cardiff Airport because of the drop in passenger demand

Hundreds of British Airways jobs in south Wales are under threat because of a collapse in passenger numbers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

BA had said 1,000 jobs were at risk at its three Welsh sites, but Economy Minister Ken Skates has since clarified 399 redundancies are being considered.

Mr Skates said he had told BA the number of jobs at risk “needs to be reduced”.

The airline has started a 45-day consultation with workers.

BA’s parent company had warned it was to cut 12,000 jobs from its 42,000-strong workforce due to the crisis.

BA say they are proposed changes, including at its main £70m maintenance base at Cardiff Airport, and subject to consultation with unions.

While BA does not fly from Wales, it employs maintenance and engineering staff in Wales.

They maintain their long-haul fleet at Cardiff Airport, have an interiors factory in Blackwood, Caerphilly county and an Avionics Services site in Llantrisant in Rhonnda Cynon Taff.

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The Prince of Wales and BA chief executive Alex Cruz had a tour of BA’s centre in Rhoose earlier this year

A worker at the Blackwood site, who did not want to be named, told the BBC: “It’s gutting. It’s been here 20 years and just like that, it’s gone.

“These are decent jobs round here and I just don’t know what the guys in there will do now. It’s a very sombre mood. It really is.”

Mr Skates said there would be a statutory consultation taking place between the airline, workers and unions.

“My hope is that during this period we will be able to have access to the employees within those facilities so we can offer every bit of support that is available from Welsh Government,” he said.

He also called on more support from the UK government.

“It is vital that support is forthcoming… to support the aviation sector, including the tens of thousands of jobs that form part of a very successful aero sector in Wales.”

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BA maintain things like seats, toilets and luggage compartments at its site in Blackwood

The airline’s parent company IAG had previously said it needed to impose a “restructuring and redundancy programme” until demand for air travel returns to 2019 levels.

IAG – one of the world’s biggest airline companies, which also owns Spanish airline Iberia and Ireland’s Aer Lingus – said it will take several years for air travel to return to pre-virus levels, a warning that has been echoed by airlines across the world.

John Whalley, head of the Aerospace Wales Forum, told BBC Radio Wales: “The real concern is that British Airways is now part of a much larger group IAG – with decisions taken in London and Madrid.”

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BA opened its huge maintenance hanger at Rhoose in 1993 to do upkeep on its long-haul fleet

“It remains to be seen whether there are rationalisation plans for the whole of the group which might involve closing one or more sites in south Wales, we just don’t know at this stage.”

It has been warned the job losses would have “devastating impact” on families and the south Wales economy.

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BA maintains electrical, electronic and mechanical components at its site in Llantrisant

“Many of those at risk of redundancy are currently furloughed under the government’s Job Retention Scheme; a scheme clearly designed to retain jobs,” said Richard Munn, of union Unite Wales.

“It also means that meaningful consultation is impossible. Unite therefore regard the consultation as unlawful and are demanding that BA rescind the notices of redundancy and enter in to meaningful talks with Unite.”

It was “devastating” news for the workers at the three sites, said Andrew RT Davies, the Welsh Conservative Member of the Senedd for South Wales Central.

He called for “brave leadership at Westminster and Cardiff Bay”.

“These are high-skilled jobs which will not be easily replaced in our area,” he added.

It is the latest blow for the aerospace industry as engine maker Rolls-Royce also announced on Wednesday it will cut 9,000 jobs, warning it will take “several years” for the airline industry to recover from the drop in air travel because of the coronavirus crisis.

Experts had warned 8,000 aerospace jobs in Wales could go because of the fall in airline passenger numbers and that the sector “may never recover”.

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Chart from last month showing the decline in flights tracked from the UK’s biggest airports

Jobs are also at risk at General Electric’s 1,400-worker site at Nantgarw, near Caerphilly, and at Airbus’ factory in Broughton on Deeside.

It is because nine out of 10 flights have been grounded since the UK went into lockdown – plus travel restrictions can prevent some air travel.

This is confirmation of terrible news for BA workers across south Wales.

Job losses are expected across the aerospace and defence industry which employs 23,000 people in Wales.

The industry has already been badly hit by coronavirus and it’s almost certain that it will take years to fully recover.

BA’s maintenance facility at Rhoose services the company’s long-haul fleet of planes.

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BA’s maintenance facility at Cardiff looks after its new Dreamliner long-haul fleet

These flights are the ones that passengers are expected to take longer to return to so demand for these planes may be reduced for years.

The facility is also a user of the Welsh Government-owned Cardiff Airport where the BA planes arrive for service. BA had said it would cut 12,000 in total from its operations.

There have also been warnings of global job losses at Airbus and GE Aviation. Both companies are major employers in Wales.

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