Battle to support staff facing BAE jobs axe

The Eurofighter Typhoon, parts for which are made at BAE Systems' bases at Samlesbury and Warton, near Preston
The Eurofighter Typhoon, parts for which are made at BAE Systems' bases at Samlesbury and Warton, near Preston
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Nearly 2,000 jobs will be cut at defence giant BAE Systems’ factories in Lancashire this week.

The company is due to tell workers at the bases in Samlesbury and Warton, near Preston, on Tuesday that up to 1,900 jobs will go as part of the latest round of cuts.

The other 1,100 job cuts will fall on the firm’s bases at Brough, East Yorkshire and on RAF bases across the country where BAE Systems staff work.

Parts for the jet are built by workers at the company’s factory at Samlesbury, near Preston with final assembly and testing work at the neighbouring Warton site, which employ around 11,500 people across both sites.

On Monday, company has confirmed government’s in the four partner nations of the Typhoon’s jet-building consortium, made up of the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy, are to buy aircraft over a longer period of time, slowing production.

Fylde MP Mark Menzies said the scale of cuts would be “devastating” for Lancashire’s defence industry.

He said: “I have come to know many of them personally and I know how passionately they care about the jobs they do.

“We live in rapidly changing times and the company is, of course, trying to adapt to a changing marketplace and a slowdown in orders.

“This is about Typhoon and the level of orders and while the slowdown has provoked this decision I hope future export orders will keep production going for some considerable time to come.”

Ben Wallace, MP for Wyre and Preston North, added: “There are tremendous opportunities for export of the Typhoon, but unfortunately the buyers are not yet ready. BAE has to therefore make a decision, end production or slow it down to retain capability. Correctly they have chosen to do the latter.”

Trade union leaders at the Lancashire factories said news of the slow-down of Typhoon work was “the worst-kept secret” among the workforce - but added the unions still had no idea of the scale of the cuts they are facing.

It is believed the company will make an announcement on Tuesday.

Phil Entwistle, the manual trade union convenor for the Unite union on the Lancashire sites, said: “It is on a knife edge at the moment because we do not know the scale of what is being proposed but we know it is on the horizon. All we, as trade unions, can do is set our stall out and prepare ourselves for whatever comes, because whatever happens we will be looking to mitigate whatever impact there is on our members.”

On Monday, BAE told staff that news of the looming cuts were “media speculation” although workers will be called to meetings on Tuesday to be told the news.

Unite said it needed immediate clarification of which sites will be hit and pledged to press for redundancies to be voluntary.

The cuts come on top of more than 1,300 job cuts announced over the last 12 months on the back of the government’s decision to scrap the Harrier and Nimrod projects, which employed thousands across BAE.

One Typhoon worker, who asked not to be named, said: “The unions managed to move people around the last time, and with all the people wanting to leave and taking early retirement, there were no compulsories.

“This time, no-one knows if there is enough people left, there are probably 500 lads that I know who want to leave – but that might not be enough, no-one knows.”

Another, who has worked at the Warton site for 15 years, said: “We are at the mercy of governments, not just in this country but across Europe and beyond.

“The company are saying that if we stretch out the production of Typhoon, there is more chance of getting export orders, but there’s nothing definite about that.”

One Samlesbury worker added: “It has always been the way with BAE, you can never be certain more than a few years ahead.

“A lot of people said after the last lot that there would be no-one for a long time, but you just don’t know.”

A statement from BAE Systems said it was talking to trade unions about ways to “continue to help in delivering efficiency improvements” and confirmed it was slowing the production rate of Typhoon.

It added: “BAE Systems recognises that the long-term future of Typhoon is based on its export potential and therefore we need to ensure we are in the best possible position to secure those opportunities – extending the production programme will help us achieve this.

“We remain committed to making Typhoon a success both in the UK and overseas markets.”