In a week where over 10,000 UK jobs were lost in a single day - including 1700 Airbus jobs -  Unite, the UK’s leading manufacturing union, has called upon the government to step up now or lose a world-class industry on their watch. 

Repeated warnings

The union has repeatedly warned that without swift action to support the UK’s aerospace industry more jobs will go on a vast scale and the UK's crown as an industry leader will be stolen by competitor countries.

Unite's argument for aerospace support is strengthened by the publication today (Thursday) of new research commissioned by Unite and undertaken by Acuity Analysis.

Sector profile

The profile of the sector's importance to the UK's communities and economies reveals:

  •  102,000 workers are directly employed in the aerospace sector with many thousands more in indirect employment. 
  • A highly productive sector, with a turnover in excess of £38 billion, generating over £9 billion for the UK economy every year.
  • A reduction in the UK’s aviation workforce of 10,000 would wipe £4.3 billion off the economic output. 
  • An industry spread throughout the UK with a particularly high concentration of jobs in the South West (26,600 jobs), East Midlands 25,900, the North West 22,400 and Wales 11,700.
  • Major employers include Airbus UK, BAE Systems, Bombardier, GKN, Rolls-Royce, Leonardo MW and Thales Group, many of whom plan to make major redundancies. 

 Unite estimates that just under 12,000 aerospace jobs have gone since this crisis took hold.

UK government action

Unite is calling for the UK government to follow the lead of competitor countries such as France and Germany to put in place the programme the sector needs to survive, rebuild and recover.

 The Airbus CEO has indicated that those countries which back their aerospace industries will be the ones most attractive to businesses.

UK support needed

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Unless we see comprehensive action to support UK aerospace now, then this world-class industry could well be lost on the Johnson government's watch. There is not a moment more to be lost.

"This is a sector that generates billions for the national coffers, helping fund our NHS, public services and the government’s promised infrastructure spend. It supports jobs the length and breadth of the country and is central to UK national security. We really cannot understand the government's silence or failure to act.

"Aerospace is exactly the sort of high-skilled industry, based in the communities that need to be at the heart of the PM's promised levelling up efforts, that ministers repeatedly say they want to thrive and, as part of a wider manufacturing sector, must be centre stage in our economic programme to recover and rebuild. 

“And this is a flexible, committed workforce. It stepped up during this crisis, manufacturing ventilators and other equipment desperately needed for the NHS and to protect the public. They deserve so much more than a government that turns a deaf ear to requests for assistance. 

"While aerospace workers in France and Germany are being embraced by their government, kept in decent paid work, working a shorter working week and retraining in preparation for the upturn, playing their part in building a greener, stronger economy, our government's inertia will see thousands of jobs lost and more of our businesses moving overseas. 

"The industry and the workforce speak with one voice on the need for urgent action to ensure that UK aerospace survives, rebuilds and recovers. Employers urgently need a signal and the confidence that assistance is coming.  

"Without this, the jobs lost in recent weeks will snowball into an avalanche of further redundancies and the global prestige of this industry, built up by generations of workers, will be destroyed."

SME Fears

Unite is also extremely concerned that the headline job loss figures will not embrace the small and medium enterprises that play a vital role in the supply chain and are starting to make large scale redundancies. It is feared that many will not survive the crisis.

The aerospace sector, which includes civilian, defence and space divisions, has been particularly badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic primarily as a result of the dramatic decline in new aircraft orders and the vastly reduced need for maintenance of existing aircraft.


Notes to editors:

Unite’s plan for the industry is based around three clear aims for the sector: Survive, Rebuild and Recover.  The full details can be read in the report but in summary embrace:


Sector support similar in scope and ambition to that unveiled by the French and Germany governments.

Continuation of the government’s job retention scheme (JRS) plus a shorter working week scheme, which has been effective in saving Germany jobs.


A government-supported aircraft replacement scheme to help the aviation sector dramatically reduce its carbon footprint. Production and parts must come from UK

Research and Development increased and the current 50/50 ratio between government and companies changed to 80/20 to bring us in line with those of France and Germany.


Continued support for aerospace apprenticeships to close the growing skills gap across an ageing workforce.

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: [email protected]

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