NORTH Wales firms hardest-hit by coronavirus must be supported in order to prevent a "shockwave" along their supply chains, Sir Kier Starmer has said following his visit to AMRC Cymru.

The Labour Leader visited the Flintshire-based site on Thursday as part of the party's 'Jobs, Jobs, Jobs' campaign - and following Airbus' announcement that it plans to cut 1,435 jobs at its site in Broughton.

Before his visit to the county, he warned the UK faces an unemployment crisis "on a scale not seen for generations" as he stepped up his campaign for a targeted extension of the furlough scheme.

Speaking to the Leader afterwards, he described the importance of supply chains connected to companies like Airbus, as well as the consequences they could face in the future.

“The aerospace industry is worth billions to the Welsh economy and is critical to North Wales," he said. "The supply chain for all hard-hit sectors – whether it’s aviation, aerospace or hospitality – is a massive cause for concern.

"If we don’t support the hardest-hit businesses with targeted support, it will create a shockwave all the way down the supply chain.

"That’s why we’ve been saying to government: target the support more effectively. Don’t let good jobs and good businesses go under."

The Leader has previously reported on concerns that proposed Airbus redundancies could result in large numbers of skilled workers and engineers leaving the North Wales jobs market in order to find work elsewhere, leaving the region with a skills shortage.

Speaking about the matter, Mr Starmer said: "Every job lost is a tragedy.

"Our first priority is to stem the tide of job losses by pushing the government relentlessly to put in place more targeted support for those sectors most at risk of further redundancies.

"Where jobs are lost, it’s crucial that we retain those skilled workers in North Wales. Public sector investment is important, which is why it was so good to visit AMRC Cymru and see the cutting edge work being done here with the support of the Welsh Government.”

Regarding Mr Starmer's campaign for an extension of the furlough system, Deeside Business Forum chairman Askar Sheibani said he would prefer to see a system more like Germany's implemented in the UK.

Mr Sheibani, who is also CEO of Comtek Network Systems, said: "I have employees at my German business and their furlough system is very flexible - as soon as I applied for it they gave me a 12 month allocation, so now I know all of my employees will be staying with me for one year. "When I know there is a large surge in business I can bring them back so I am not looking for new people who don't know my business."

Mr Sheibani said such an arrangement could be beneficial for firms like Airbus, as it would help to keep skilled workers available.

He added: "I am sure Airbus will bounce back, but if they don't have the right people available to build these wings they won't be able to do it - they will have to start training people again."

Mr Starmer said: "We need the furlough scheme to be both more targeted and more flexible.

"Currently, the support is being wound down for all sectors at the same time.

"It needs to be targeted to the hardest hit sectors and flexible enough for sectors who are able to partially, but not fully, reopen.”

Unite Wales welcomed Sir Keir Starmer’s call for the UK Government to extend its furlough scheme for the aerospace sector.

Peter Hughes, Unite Wales Secretary said: "Unite very much welcomes Sir Keir Starmer’s call for an extension of the furlough scheme for the aerospace sector.

"The aerospace sector is an exceptional case which is taking an enormous hit due to the effect of Covid19 on air travel.

"The aerospace sector is extremely important to Wales and supplies thousands of the most highly skilled and best paid manufacturing jobs that we have.

"The extension of furlough, alongside a comprehensive financial support package for the aerospace sector is essential if Airbus is to thrive and produce the wings of tomorrow."

Daz Reynolds, Unite Convenor at Airbus said: “The lack of Government support for Aerospace means that our plant at Broughton is not operating on a level playing field with partner plants across Europe.

"Both the French and German Governments are backing their workers and putting the backing in place to keep their aerospace manufacturers viable and ready to bounce back quickly when the recovery comes. "The Broughton workforce has shown time and again that it is world class and can hold its own against any aerospace plant across the globe.

"Our members are crying out for the UK Government to change direction and support them and the aerospace sector before it is too late.”

Asked what his message to the Airbus workers facing redundancy would be, Mr Starmer said: "Firstly, I’m sorry this has happened.

"The Labour Party is fighting for jobs across Wales and across the UK, because in many cases these are not bad businesses or bad jobs being lost.

"We will keep a relentless focus on this."