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Strikes could hit A350 wing production

Airbus could be facing more supply chain misery on its A350 programme after workers at a wing component supplier voted overwhelmingly for industrial action in a dispute over pay.

Employees at GKN's Western Approach plant near Bristol, UK, manufacture composite wing structures for the A350 and A400M military airlifter.

Following a ballot of its membership at the factory, thought to be around 90% of the shop-floor workforce, the Unite trade union says that 90% voted in favour of strike action, with 96% voting in favour of action just short of a stoppage.

The immediate impact is an overtime ban from 25 May, which, says Unite, will severely affect the factory's ability to fulfil customer orders.

The union warns that if no progress is made to resolve the dispute, strike action could begin next month.

It says workers at the plant have not received a pay increase for either 2016 or 2017, while managers have "received bonuses and rewards".

Workers in the rest of GKN Aerospace received 2016 and 2017 pay increases of 1% and 3%, respectively, Unite claims.

Unite deputy regional secretary Steve Preddy says: “GKN has continued to blame technical and operational management failures for the decision not to offer workers a pay increase. At the same time it has hypocritically given bonuses and rewards to managers."

FlightGlobal understands that a central reason for the refusal to offer a pay rise is the high rate of non-conforming parts produced.

“Workers have demonstrated their flexibility and hard work in seeking to assure that the factory is a success and in return the company has slapped them in the face by failing to instigate a pay rise," says Preddy.

A meeting between the two parties is scheduled for 30 May.

GKN says: "We are in constructive discussions with the union and, given this, we will not provide a running commentary during this process."

Airbus was unavailable to comment. The slow pace of deliveries on the A350 has been blamed on supply chain constraints, notably of lavatories and seats.

The airframer handed over 49 A350-900s last year and intends to surpass that figure this year on its way to output of 10 per month by the end of 2018.

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