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The Welsh Government has sought to distance itself from Cardiff Aviation this week as financial problems continue to dog the St Athan based business.
We have been contacted by numerous current and former employees who are still owed wages from May.
Financial problems hit Cardiff Aviation Ltd towards the end of 2016 after work seemed to dry up and a number of high profile contracts were lost. It also emerged that no rent had ever been paid by Cardiff Aviation for the Welsh Government owned Twin Peaks hangar at MOD St Athan.
Cardiff Aviation is a Maintenance Repair and Overhaul business (MRO) based in the Twin Peaks hangar at MOD St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan. The Co-founder and chairman is Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson started the business in 2012 with an investment of just over £1.8m from Welsh Government owned Finance Wales.
The company promised to bring around 1000 jobs to the Vale of Glamorgan site but less than a third of those jobs have materialised as the company has struggled to attract customers. Most works carried out by Cardiff Aviation has been for their own “airline in a box” aircraft.
Bruce Dickinson has continually, and vocally, sought to blame the Welsh Government for the situation claiming that customers want to bring aircraft in, but can’t because the Instrument Landing System (ILS) system at St Athan is not approved for use so the airfield can’t operate in bad weather or at night. The company lost contracts with Easyjet & Monarch and claimed this was due to the availability of the runway. A claim seemingly not supported by the airlines in question.
Staff were initially unpaid in December 2016 when, as one former employee told us “We were told by phone on payday there had been a delay in the company receiving money from [Air] Djibouti and we would be paid the 3rd /4th January 2017. Went back to work after Christmas and people were angry but gave the company the benefit of doubt.” Cardiff Aviation finally paid its staff in January but in March, problems started again.
“Rumours started middle of March we weren’t going to be paid in full and contractors were told pay was going to be late. 767 approval needed to be in place otherwise salaries and jobs were at risk.” The cash the company had was supposed to be used to purchase the 767 tooling.
Another employee said they had received warnings from their bank due to mortgage payments failing to go through along with accruing additional charges. He said, “they would always wait until the end of the shift if there was a wage problem”. Many staff we spoke said that despite being in the building, multi-millionaire Bruce Dickinson would never address staff himself.
As of today, Staff have been waiting over 20 days for wages from May. One employee told us “When I have asked for an update it’s always, should be, might be, hopefully”.
Cardiff Aviation Ltd also announced earlier this month it was seeking 25 redundancies.
We put the current situation to the Welsh Government who immediately sought to distance themselves saying, despite millions of pounds of Welsh taxpayers money being invested, it was a matter for Cardiff Aviation, not them. Their spokesperson told Aviation Wales “The management of Cardiff Aviation Ltd’s workforce is a matter for the company. Welsh Government has had no involvement in the company’s recently announced workforce reshaping.”
Talking about the recent non-payment of rent they added “The company is currently meeting all of its financial commitments to the Welsh Government. The agreement between the Welsh Government and Cardiff Aviation is commercially sensitive and it would be inappropriate for us to comment on its content.”
Whilst they refused to give the details of any rent deal they did confirm that an “agreement was reached in accordance with advice from an external, independent valuer.” Sources have suggested that a “substantial portion” of the outstanding debt owed in rent to the Welsh public purse has been written off by the Welsh Government.
On top of the financial help from the Welsh Government via Finance Wales, Cardiff Aviation Ltd has also, according to Ken Skates AM, received the maximum amount of Business Rates Relief (BRR) allowable under current laws.
As reported earlier this month there appears to be an internal power struggle currently going on at Cardiff Aviation with new Managing Director realising that the company is in a dire position. Bruce Dickinson is desperately seeking a new investor across the Cardiff Aviation business whilst some have indicated that MD Martyn Anderson (Martyn Anderson Consulting Ltd) thinks that Cardiff Aviation’s St Athan maintenance business should be run separately and is reportedly courting an investor in the middle east to step in and take control of the company. We understand that the investor that Mr Anderson is talking to is fully aware of the companies current financial situation.
One employee told us “I get the feeling at the moment staff don’t know what to think [or] believe . They are hanging on because they want the place to work.” adding “The airline only has the 767 that is in the hangar waiting to be worked on. Apparently work will start on it once the investor is on board but no set date has been given when this will happen”
Several companies have also reportedly removed stock and tooling from the Cardiff Aviation as they had not been paid.
With nothing on the books for maintenance and very little interest from airlines, the future for Cardiff Aviation seems bleak under its current stewardship and certainly falls well short of the promises made in 2012 about bringing 1000’s of jobs to the Vale of Glamorgan. Several members of staff had left secure jobs with nearby British Airways Maintenance Cardiff (BAMC) only to find that 12-18 months down the line they are facing redundancy.
In 2012 & 2013 the Welsh Government were sending out press release after press release stating how hard they worked to get Cardiff Aviation to the Vale of Glamorgan but in 2017 the mood has changed to one of nothing to do with us.
Cardiff Aviation Ltd has declined all previous attempts for comment.