Collins Aerospace announces 235 job cuts amid Covid-19 downturn
A County Down aerospace company has announced it is cutting 235 jobs, almost a quarter of its workforce.
Collins Aerospace is an aircraft seat manufacturing plant in Kilkeel that employs over 948 people.
In a statement, the company said the planned redundancies were due to Covid-19's "impact on demand for aerospace production".
SDLP South Down MLA Sinead Bradley described it as a "devastating blow" to the local economy.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the company said "this is a critical step to ensuring that Collins Aerospace emerges strong once this crisis is contained".
'Key employer for area'
Ms Bradley said retention of employment on this site is of "critical importance".
The SDLP MLA has called on the Stormont Executive and Economy Minister Diane Dodds for "immediate intervention".
"We cannot and should not be in the business of offering anyone false hope, but neither can we afford to stand by and allow jobs that are so critical to the wellbeing of our local economy to simply disappear," Ms Bradley said.
"Second to keeping people safe during Covid-19, the executive must prioritise taking immediate direct action to retain employment and actively support our economy," she added.
Unite the Union have called on Stormont to bring forward furlough extension to "enable vital skills retention and enable upskilling for future growth".
Unite's regional officer Kieran Ellison confirmed that his union had been informed by management of the redundancy proposals.
He described the job cuts as a "hammer blow to the local economy", which "will mean uncertainty for many other workers and small businesses dependent on these jobs for a livelihood".
"This is only the latest in a series of severe job blows to Northern Ireland's aerospace sector," he added.
Unite are estimating that the Kilkeel job losses will cost the local economy £10m a year.
Mr Ellison said government intervention is needed or this key sector "could disappear".
'Difficult but necessary decision'
In a statement, Collins Aerospace said it continued to "experience and forecast reduced business due to Covid-19".
A spokesperson for the firm said coronavirus has "forced us to take further actions to align with current and future business demands in an evolving environment".
"We have made the extremely difficult, but necessary decision to commence a collective consultation process with our union and appointed staff representatives, to discuss proposals to reduce headcount and make other operational changes in Kilkeel.
"This is a critical step to ensuring that Collins Aerospace emerges strong once this crisis is contained".