UNION leaders have expressed fury that workers at defence giant BAE Systems are being kept waiting to hear confirmation of thousands of job losses in the wake of the Government’s defence cuts.
The firm will end days of speculation today by announcing around 3,000 job cuts, mainly at sites in its military aircraft division in Warton and Samlesbury in Lancashire, and Brough, East Yorkshire.
Its two Tyneside factories are not believed to be affected by the latest round of cuts but, in March last year, it said it was cutting 217 of the 650 jobs in Newcastle, and it added another 100 would be cut once it moves work from Tyneside to Telford, Shropshire. The 200 staff in Birtley will also be shifted early next year to Washington.
Yesterday, the company, said in a statement: “BAE Systems has informed its staff that we are reviewing our operations across various businesses to make sure the company is performing as effectively and efficiently as possible, both in delivering our commitments to existing customers and ensuring the company is best placed to secure future business.
“Whilst there has been a lot of media speculation, it has always been our intention to communicate the results of the review to employees as a priority, and this will take place on Tuesday, 27th September.”
Union officials said the Government’s defence cuts were to blame for the job losses, which they described as a “hammer blow” to manufacturing, as orders for the Eurofighter Typhoon combat jet slow down.
Paul McCarthy, regional officer of the GMB, said it was a “disgrace” that workers heard via a leak to the media over the weekend that thousands of job losses were imminent.
He said: “We are going to ask the company to launch a formal investigation to establish who leaked this information.”
Dave Oglesby, another GMB officer, said a consultation on previously announced job cuts at Brough had only just finished.
“Workers were told that the purpose of the cuts was to make Brough viable and save jobs for the future.”
Unite national officer Ian Waddell said: “These job losses will be a hammer blow to the UK defence industry, which is already reeling with the consequences of the Government’s ‘buy off the shelf’ policy.”
Waddell called on the Government to offer immediate support to BAE Systems to keep its order book strong and avert heavy job losses.
Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said the news was “a devastating blow for Lancashire and Yorkshire and a real knock for UK manufacturing”, adding: “We need a fast response from ministers with a clear plan of action.
“At a time when it is so hard to find a new job this is a dreadful moment to lose the one you have.”
BAE has a 33% stake in the Eurofighter joint venture company, alongside EADS and Finmeccanica, and has received orders for 550 planes from the four partner nations involved – the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Earlier this year, BAE Systems said around 2,000 workers would leave voluntarily or move to other jobs in the company, but there will be 450 compulsory lay-offs at several military sites across the UK, including Woodford, near Manchester, Farnborough in Hampshire, RAF Kinloss in Scotland, RAF Cottesmore in Lincolnshire and Brough in East Yorkshire.