Airbus’s plan to transfer more work on its A320 wings to Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has caused a stir among the members and leadership of Unite, the UK’s biggest union, which described the move as “a massive own goal.”
Last Tuesday Airbus told the workforce at the company’s Broughton plant in North Wales that work on the bottom wing skins on the A320 series would move to KAI, but that it would retrain and “redeploy” about 200 of the UK workers affected.
The Unite union said the decision undermines “the world-beating skills of UK workers” and will weaken Britain’s position in the global aerospace industry.
“This decision is a real blow for the UK aerospace industry,” said Unite’s national officer for aerospace and shipping, Ian Waddell. “We have many UK companies that are ready, willing and able to carry out work for Airbus but who have missed out now that work is being sent offshore to Korea…The UK government and the Welsh Assembly have pumped millions of pounds into Airbus over many years, but that support has not been reflected in keeping work in the UK,” Waddell added.
In the view of the union, the loss of the wing work comes as a particularly painful blow for the Broughton plant as A320 backlogs reach record levels with the emergence of the wildly successful A320neo.
Still, Broughton will continue to carry out final assembly of wings for all of Airbus’s commercial jets, including the A320.
“The decision will help strengthen Airbus in the UK as a business long term, allowing its Broughton facility to focus resources on key high-value production areas—core competencies of wing assembly and equipping,” said Airbus. “This high-level work and final assembly of the A320 wings will continue to be carried out at Broughton.
“The transfer of non-core work to KAI is a positive strategic business choice which recognizes the increase in productivity and capacity resulting from a strong Airbus order book,” it added.
Airbus employs 10,000 UK employees and provides work for 100,000 people through its extended supply chain, according to the manufacturer.