TRADE union Unite claims nearly 200 jobs are under threat at an airline seat factory in Cwmbran as part of a "massive jobs cull".

Airline seat manufacturer Safran Seats has proposed 187 redundancies at its Cwmbran site, the union said, adding that the French-owned firm also intends to close its factory in Camberley, Surrey.

A spokeswoman for Safran Seats said the aerospace industry was "facing an unprecedented crisis" because of the "wide-ranging impacts" of the coronavirus pandemic, including a 75 per cent reduction in the amount of global air travel.

Unite, however, called the moves a "knee-jerk reaction" to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and claimed Safran Seats should have instead continued to apply for the UK government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

The government introduced the CJRS to avoid the prospect of mass lay-offs as businesses adapted to the economic shock of the global outbreak.

Under the scheme, firms can instead furlough (grant compulsory leaves of absence to) workers and claim government grants for up to 80 per cent of those employees' wages.

Unite regional officer Rhys McCarthy said the CJRS "was put in place to avoid this kind of knee-jerk reaction", adding that the union would lobby Safran Seats executives to "rescind" the planned job losses.

"It is appalling that the company has not used this scheme to its full extent to buy time to look at alternatives to this massive jobs cull," Mr McCarthy said.

"It has applied for the [CJRS] and should have continued to go down that route, instead of opting for immediate widespread redundancies as the first option."

The Safran Seats spokeswoman said the firm was "grateful" to the UK government for the CJRS, which is due to end in June.

"Even if the scheme were to be extended, it is increasingly clear that it will take years for the aerospace industry to recover from the impact of the coronavirus crisis," she said. "We have therefore had to take steps now to protect the longer-term existence of Safran Seats GB."

The firm employs around 1,200 employees at its Cwmbran and Camberley sites, and while total number of people affected will be finalised through the consultation process with the Employee Consultative Committee and individual employees, the firm expects at this stage, it is expected to be around 30 per cent of the current workforce.

Mr McCarthy called Safran's plans "potentially another blow to the UK aviation and aerospace industries which needs government industry-specific support, as promised, to see the sectors through the pandemic".

Torfaen AM Lynne Neagle and MP Nick Thomas-Symonds described Unite's claims as "deeply worrying."

“This uncertainty only adds to the tough situation people are already facing," they said.

“The furlough scheme was designed to protect jobs in this situation and avoid redundancies - we will work with Torfaen Council and with the Unite union to do all we can to save these jobs.”