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Airbus promises 600 new UK jobs

Airbus promises 600 new UK jobs

European plane maker likely to create roles at plants in Filton and Broughton but warns UK suppliers that they must stay competitive on price

» Career | Wednesday, January 18, 2012 • Air News Times
Airbus has pledged to create up to 600 jobs in the UK this year, but sent a shot across the bows of domestic manufacturers by warning that Britain's GKN recently lost out on a lucrative parts contract to a Korean rival because it was not competitive enough.

Tom Enders, Airbus's chief executive, said the bid for work on wings for the A320 jet was won by Korea Aerospace Industries because it made a cheaper pitch. However, Enders dismissed as "nonsense" claims from the Unite trade union that Europe's largest planemaker is undermining the British aerospace industry.

"I know this comes up because we have recently made headlines with outsourcing of so-called UK work to Korea. But that was just simply because of competitiveness. We were running a very competitive tender here."

He said GKN, also a big player in the car parts industry, submitted a below-par bid. "GKN did not make their utmost effort to come up with their best offer." According to one report, the loss of the work on bottom skins for A320 wings had scuppered plans to create 800 jobs in the UK – a number Airbus sources do not recognise.

Speaking in Hamburg at the annual press conference for Airbus's parent group, EADS, Enders said the move underlined the need for Airbus to stay competitive against rivals including Boeing and did not signal a withdrawal from the UK. "This company needs to reduce costs," he said. "We need to internationalise further. It is not a signal that we are withdrawing from the UK. That is nonsense."

Airbus has a workforce of 10,000 in the UK, largely at its wing manufacturing plant in Broughton, north Wales, and at its design and testing facility in Filton near Bristol. Enders said Airbus would create around about 500-600 jobs in the UK this year and company sources said the positions would probably be based at Filton and Broughton.

However, Enders used the opening of a new facility at Broughton last year to warn that plane manufacturing at Airbus was no longer a eurocentric activity. "The best way is for governments to finance and invest in intellectual infrastructure and support research and technology so that we have a basis to work in the UK in the long term," he said in October, after Broughton opened a new facility to make wings for the A350 jet.

Some 15% of Airbus production is in the UK but the successful KAI bid underlines the threat to that figure, which is understood to have been at 20% in the early years of the production programme for the A380 superjumbo. Britain is the world's second largest exporter of aerospace products. The UK industry, including Rolls-Royce jet engines, employs 96,500 people and generated sales of £23.1bn in 2010.

The TUC has meanwhile urged the government to follow Germany's example in manufacturing and do more for apprentices and so-called mittelstand – medium-sized companiesfirms.

Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, said: "The UK has much to learn from Germany – it is the powerhouse of the European economy and its politicians have never lost sight of the value of their manufacturing sector. But it's not too late for British manufacturing – a new approach to skills, investment and procurement could help bring the UK back to its rightful place as one of the major manufacturing nations of the world."
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1/26/2012 4:58:56 PM

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