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Politicians seek support for 500 staff facing axe from Thompson Aero in ‘devastating blow’

'I have asked council officials to urgently engage with the company to discuss measures of support offered to employers and employees by the UK Government'

Thompson Aero Seating

Council officials have been asked to engage with Thompson Aero Seating to see what support can be offered employees after it was revealed up to 500 jobs could be lost.

A redundancy programme could see up to 40 per cent of the workforce losing their jobs across the two sites at Portadown and Banbridge.

It comes as a result of “major market challenges”, Thompson – which employs around 1,200 – announced on Thursday.

The political reaction and calls for help for all affected has been swift.

Newly-appointed Lord Mayor Kevin Savage said: “My thoughts are with all Thompson Aero workers and their families following their redundancy programme announcement today.

“This is devastating news and the announcement is clearly associated with huge challenges currently in the market.

“I have asked council officials to urgently engage with the company to discuss measures of support offered to employers and employees by the UK Government.  Collectively we all need to work together to protect jobs and incomes during this challenging time.”

Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart said it was a “devastating blow for these employees, their families and the local job market, not just in Upper Bann but the supply chain across Northern Ireland”.

The DUP representative added: “Many of these jobs came to the area when the aviation industry was booming. Sadly, the impact of Covid-19 has decimated this sector and [this week’s] announcement is a reflection of that.

“I will be speaking with management and employees to discuss support measures and the way forward.

“The Government must look more strategically at the aerospace sector given the impact of Covid-19. We must ensure that families depending on this sector continue to have their livelihood.

“I know the Economy Minister is already aware of the pressures on this sector and has been making this argument in London.

“My thoughts are with the Thompson Aero workers at this time. It is vital they get all available support at this challenging time.”

Local Assembly members have also been shocked and saddened by the news.

Upper Bann DUP MLA Jonathan Buckley described it as a “devastating blow to Portadown”.

“This is incredibly unfortunate news that is the inevitable consequence of the current global health crisis and its impact on the aviation industry,” he added.

“I want to extend my thoughts with all of those who have suffered from job losses at this difficult time, and I assure you that I will be exploring every opportunity to provide support measures to those affected in this industry.

“Covid-19 is presenting an enormous economic challenge across many sectors, and we need to explore innovative solutions to ensure a post Covid-19 recovery. ’’

The local SDLP representative Dolores Kelly said it was a “worrying development which will understandably cause serious concern among the approximately 500 workers and their families”.

“For these areas with significant deprivationnews of another economic blow and yet more job losses is seriously demoralising,” she said.

“Job losses of this magnitude will always be very difficult, but even more so in the context of a global pandemic.

My first thoughts are with the staff affected and I welcome the fact the unions are involved. Protection for staff must be the first priority.

“I would also encourage the Economy Minister, as a matter of urgency, to pledge her support for staff in the weeks and months ahead.

A spokesperson for the company dropped the bombshell earlier on Thursday.

They said: “A spokesperson for the company said: “As a result of these major market challenges, Thompson Aero Seating is announcing a redundancy programme with a proposed reduction of up to 500 jobs, which represents a 40% reduction and will bring the company’s headcount back to the numbers employed in the business as recently as 2018.

“Consultations will now commence with our employees and representatives, with reductions to take place over the coming months.

“It is with great regret that the company has taken this essential step, an unavoidable decision which, given the circumstances, is absolutely necessary to secure the sustainable future of our business. Our primary focus is on liaising closely with and supporting our employees at this time.”

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