Unite urges government to beef up its industrial strategy after GKN job losses

Rebecca Smith
GKN's Yeovil factory specialises in manufacturing airframes for the Royal Navy's Wildcat helicopter
GKN's Yeovil factory specialises in manufacturing airframes for the Royal Navy's Wildcat helicopter (Source: MOD)

Britain's biggest trade union warned that the government needs to bring in its new industrial strategy urgently, as 221 jobs at the Yeovil GKN plant, which makes airframes for Royal Navy helicopters are set to be cut.

Unite said that Theresa May's "much-trumpeted" industrial strategy needed "flesh put on the bones double quick", otherwise thousands of skilled manufacturing jobs across the UK, similar to those at Yeovil, could be at risk.

Italian business Leonardo Helicopters builds aircraft at its Yeovil plant and has told subcontractor GKN that it's taking the work back in house, putting over 200 jobs at the FTSE 100 firm at risk.

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GKN has its own plant in Yeovil producing parts for the Wildcats and staff there were initially told their jobs were under threat on Friday.

"Unite will strongly defend our members' jobs and immediately started a campaign to lobby GKN and Leonardo Helicopters, whose apparent decision to bring airframe work back 'in house', has led to the real possibility of the site's closure," said Unite regional officer Heathcliffe Pettifer. "We want this decision reversed - there has not been an adequate rational from senior GKN management for the redundancies."

The company said the current arrangement was "no longer sustainable", meaning the operation would have to be considerably downsized or closed altogether. GKN said in a statement that Leonardo had informed it that "due to changes in their demand for helicopters" the Italian business would "relocate all future Wildcat assembly and detail work away from the GKN facility... to one of its own facilities".

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Unite has written to John Pritchard, the European chief executive of GKN's Aerospace's Aerostructures division asking him to explain the reasoning for the redundancies and said it had not yet received satisfactory answers from local management on key questions.

A total of 221 redundancy issues were issued at the Somerset plant on Monday - effectively signalling the closure of the site. The first job losses could start as early as 1 December.

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