Industrial strategy urgently needed as 221 Yeovil GKN ...

Industrial strategy urgently needed as 221 Yeovil GKN helicopter jobs set to be lost

19 October 2016

The government’s new ‘industrial strategy’ needs to kick-in immediately, as 221 jobs at the Yeovil GKN plant, which makes airframes for helicopters, are set to be made redundant.

Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Wednesday 19 October) that prime minister Theresa May’s much-trumpeted industrial strategy needs ‘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.

A total of 221 redundancy notices were issued at the Somerset plant on Monday (17 October), which Unite said, effectively, meant the closure of the site. The first job losses could start as early as 1 December. 

The GKN workers make airframes for Italian-owned Leonardo Helicopters - formerly AgustaWestland which is on the same site – and speculation continues that Leonardo wants to take the work back ‘in house’.

Unite regional officer Heathcliffe Pettifer said: “This is terrible and heart-breaking news for the workers and their families, and the ripple effects for the wider West Country economy will be painful in the extreme.

“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.

“We want this decision reversed – there has not been an adequate rationale from senior GKN management for the redundancies.

“The threat to these 221 highly skilled jobs makes the need for a robust, coherent and sustainable long-term industrial strategy to protect the UK’s manufacturing base an urgent priority for the government. 

“Greg Clark, secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy needs flesh put on the bones of such a strategy double quick, otherwise many thousands of other skilled jobs could be at risk.

“The time for rhetoric is over – now is the time for positive action.”

The union has already written to GKN Aerostructures (Europe and Asia) CEO John Pritchard asking him to explain the reasoning for the redundancies.

Unite said that it has not received satisfactory answers from local management to the following key questions:

•    why Leonardo made the decision to take the work ‘in house’, or when GKN was first made aware of Leonardo’s intentions?

•    whether a significant order placed now at GKN in Yeovil would immediately change the situation?

•    why GKN has been unsuccessful in securing other work, despite tendering for contracts separate to those for Leonardo?

In the summer, Leonardo lost out to Boeing in its bid to gain the majority of the work for the latest generation of Apache attack helicopters for the British army.

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Email: 

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.