Unite to seek clarification over AgustaWestland job threat

Posted on 7 Jan 2014 by The Manufacturer

Workers at AgustaWestland's Yeovil helicopter factory said they are "deeply hurt" after the Indian government cancelled a £455m contract, with a senior Unite union official seeking clarification on any potential job threats.

Twelve aircraft were ordered from the Yeovil plant but the deal collapsed amid claims company officials were bribed.

The Indian government had stopped payments to AgustaWestland in February last year following allegations of bribes amounting to £41m being paid to secure the contracts.

Three of the helicopters have already been delivered to India and the remaining nine were due to be dispatched by the middle of 2014, but the cancellation raised fears over the futures of the workforce.

Joe Conway, the senior Unite steward at Yeovil, believed the firm’s reputation had been damaged as a result of the deal cancellation, and staff concerns had been raised.

“It’s difficult. People are deeply hurt by it. People are worried. My guys who make them – they’ve done their work and it doesn’t mean that much right now but our reputation has been damaged in Yeovil,” he said.

“I’ve been here 40 years and nothing like this has ever happened.”

Mr Conway played down the threat to jobs at the firm, stating the company had other deals in place with the Norwegian government.

Ian Waddell, Unite’s national officer for the Aerospace industry, said the union was demanding talks to clarify the implications of the cancellation.

“We want to hold talks with the management to seek clarification on the implications of this cancellation for employees,” he said.

Mr Waddell, who also acknowledged the Norwegian contract as a potential means of job security, added: “This is a dedicated and skilled workforce, and we need to get assurances about job security going into 2014.”

The under fire Anglo-Italian helicopter manufacturer, which announced revenues of £1.2bn last September, received the support of the UK government last week.

An official statement released just days after the cancellation of the deal said: “AgustaWestland produce world-class helicopters for both the UK Armed Forces and export markets, including a recent £1bn contract to supply 16 helicopters plus support and training to the Norwegian government.”