Fears are mounting that hundreds of highly skilled manufacturing jobs producing Wildcat helicopters for the Royal Navy in Somerset could be sent abroad, it has been reported.
Italian business Leonardo Helicopters, which manufactures the aircraft at its plant in Yeovil, has told subcontractor GKN that it is taking the work back in house, which will put 230 jobs at the FTSE 100 firm under threat.
GKN has its own plant in Yeovil that produces parts for the Wildcats, and staff there have been told that their jobs are at risk.
In an official statement, GKN said Leonardo had informed it that due to changes in their demand for helicopters the Italian company would relocate all future Wildcat assembly and detail work away from the GKN facilityâ¦ to one of its own facilities.
The decision is likely to mean that GKNâs plant at Yeovil will close down. The firm said that an assessment of orders and costs meant that the operation is no longer a sustainable business and will have to be significantly downsized or fully closed.
Formerly known as Finmeccanica, and previously AgustaWestland, Leonardo employs 3,200 staff including subcontractors at the Yeovil plant, which makes it one of the largest aerospace manufacturing facilities in the UK.
Sources close to the situation have suggested that Leonardoâs decision is motivated by political reasons as it aims to protect jobs in its home market, while GKN provides the work at competitive prices.
One insider commented: We will have to see where the work ends up being done for the Wildcat – weâll have to see if it goes to Italy.
Unions called Leonardoâs decision a massive blow with Unite regional officer Heathcliffe Pettifer raising fears the work could be outsourced.
This is a wake-up call for ministers to formulate a coherent and robust industrial strategy that protects, nurtures and secures the UKâs manufacturing base, he said.