Staff “numb” over BAE job cuts

Staff at BAE Systems factory at Warton on Tuesday
Staff at BAE Systems factory at Warton on Tuesday
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Workers have spoken of their shock at news that 1,400 defence jobs are to go in Lancashire.

Staff at BAE Systems factory sites at Warton and Samlesbury, near Preston said news that nearly 1,400 jobs will go across the two sites and offices in Preston city centre had left them “numb” by the news.

The company told staff on Tuesday that 843 jobs will go at Warton and Preston with a further 565 going at neighbouring Samlesbury.

In total, nearly 3,000 jobs will go across the country with 899 at Brough in East Yorkshire, which the company has said it is looking to shut.

Speaking outside the Samlesbury site, manual employee John Wilson, who has been with the company for five years, said: “There were lads coming in from the briefing just completely shell-shocked, we all knew it was coming but we did not think it would be this many.”

Another employee said: “This government has cut back so much on defence, we haven’t got anywhere left to go, something had to give.”

Staff received news at mass briefings on Tuesday morning and further meetings were due to take place in the afternoon when people had opportunities to ask questions to management.

In a statement, BAE chief executive Ian King said the Lancashire cuts would fall on workers in its Eurofighter Typhoon and F-35 Lightning II jet-building programmes citing “huge pressures” on defence budgets among governments worldwide.

He said: “Our customers are facing huge pressures on their defence budgets and affordability has become an increasing priority.

“Our business needs to rise to this challenge to maintain its competitiveness and ensure its long-term future.”

He said the decision to slow down the production rate on the flagship Typhoon project would allow cash-strapped governments in the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain, which make up the Typhoon consortium, and extend the lifespan of the production line in Lancashire.

It is hoped this will allow BAE to take advantage of major export contracts, including a £7bn deal to sell Typhoon to India.

Mr King added: “These proposals aim to put the business into the right shape to address the challenges we face now and in the future and ensure we are in the best possible position to win future business.

“This transformation process is not going to be easy.

“We understand that this is a time of uncertainty for our employees and we are committed to working with them and their representatives to explore ways of mitigating the potential job losses.”

Speaking before Tuesday’s announcement, businesses close to the pair of Lancashire sites warned the latest round of cuts, which follow nearly 2,000 gone in the past 12 months.

Lesley Clark, licensee at the Myerscough Arms in Samlesbury for the past 12 months, said the job losses were “really sad” for the local economy. She said: “I think the losses are really sad but I’d say it’s something that’s happening across the board.”

Nigel Marsden of the Ship Inn in Bunker Street, Freckleton, said: “It’s awful. It’s almost like a bolt out of the blue. I feel sorry for the people there.”

Cath Hickson, a member of staff at Whelan’s fish and chip shop in Lytham Road, Warton, said they had built up a strong customer base since opening in May. She said: “We do get a lot of business from BAE and, obviously, yes, it’s going to affect us.”

It is estimated that for every 10 people employed by BAE, a further 19 jobs are supported in its supply chain companies and those which rely which supply its workforce, including 11,500 staff in Lancashire.

Martin Wright, chief executive of the North West Aerospace Alliance, said: “We realise that Lancashire’s economy relies on manufacturing and we are in very uncertain times as far as the industry is concerned.”

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.

The cuts were blamed on decisions such as the scrapping of the Nimrod and the accelerated retirement of the Harrier aircraft.

After the announcement in March, union leaders blamed the Government, with Unite claiming jobs were being lost as a direct result of Government decisions in last year’s defence review, which led to the company warning of almost 2,500 posts being cut.