Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 50 Number 5, February 8, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Civil Aircraft Crisis

Workers Sacked at GKN Aerospace

Dozens of contract workers at GKN Aerospace in East Cowes on the Isle of Wight have been let go as a result of the ongoing issues with the Boeing 737 MAX, which has led to a reduction in non-military production.

Local press on the island were informed that 37 members of the workforce were told on January 22 that they are no longer required. At least a further 25 temporary contract staff could also be at risk. There are no guarantees that permanent workers will not be affected later.

In a statement issued to the Island Echo, a spokesman for GKN Aerospace East Cowes said: "We have been working with our customer on an ongoing basis to address the challenging situation of the 737 MAX production suspension in order to minimise the impact on GKN Aerospace and our related workforce and suppliers. This impact is being managed on a site-by-site basis globally. At our East Cowes site, we have had to take the initial step of releasing contract workers on the programme in order to try to protect our permanent workforce. We are working hard to manage any further impact to the site through normal turnover of employees but cannot rule out additional impact. It remains a key priority for GKN Aerospace to safeguard our capability, to support ramp up in volume at the appropriate time, when production resumes."

The contract workers had been involved in the production of 737 MAX winglets, "composite" wings that are said to be lighter and more efficient. The crashes of two Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, in October 2018 and March 2019, had killed 346 people, and aviation authorities around the world have grounded the aircraft. Boeing announced in December 2019 that it would suspend production of the Boeing 737 MAX beginning in January 2020. From mid-April 2019, the company announced it was temporarily cutting production of the 737 aircraft from 52 per month to 42 amid the Boeing 737 MAX groundings[1].

GKN workers protest at Parliament in 2018 against the takeover by Melrose

After the announcement, the financial credit rating agency Moody's cut Boeing's debt ratings, thus pressurising not only Boeing but GKN and other suppliers to act. The financial oligarchy is the prime mover when it comes to militarising the economy and shifting towards short-term profitable military, rather than civilian, industrial production. Investment is conditionally attached to maintaining profitability through "cost cutting", productivity measures and "viability" of the company in order to secure adequate return.

With the loss and cancellation of orders, Boeing is taking the decision to lay off workers, showing little or no regard for the workers' well-being. The company is cutting production and blaming it on reports about the safety of its aircraft. As regards GKN, it is shifting its production towards the military market, as a major supplier to BAE. On the Isle of Wight, BAE systems and GKN exist side by side.

Workers employed in non-military sectors are the first to be hit. The workforce is not in control and are not part of decision-making to any extent. Whenever there are cutbacks it appears that the workers are discarded with ease in the peaceful side of production. Skills are lost and cannot readily be recovered if the market changes, jeopardising further production. The fact of the matter is militarisation can only lead to war and destruction.

The militarisation of the economy must be blocked, and the struggle stepped up to change the direction of the economy to one which favours the working people, not the monopolies and the financial oligarchs. Workers are increasingly involved in this discussion, opposing the status quo which is excluding them from decision-making and being in control of vital matters which affect their lives and the fate of society itself.


1. After the first accident, Lion Air Flight 610 on October 29, 2018, investigators suspected that the MAX's new Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which was omitted from flight manuals and crew training, automatically and repeatedly forced the aircraft to nosedive. Boeing started to redesign MCAS. In December 2018, studies by the FAA and Boeing, publicised a year later, concluded that MCAS posed an unacceptable safety risk. On March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 experienced another MCAS malfunction and crashed.


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