BAE Systems, Europe’s biggest defence contractor, says it plans to cut 1300 jobs in Britain because of government defence cuts, mostly on Nimrod and Harrier aircraft programmes.
Britain said in October it would cut the 37 billion pound (US$59 billion) defence budget by 8 percent in real terms over four years to help cut a record peacetime budget deficit.
It scrapped an order for nine Nimrod surveillance planes, made by BAE, and said Harrier jump jets, which BAE had a contract to maintain, would be retired.
BAE said it “has started consultation regarding potential job losses at six of its UK sites and two RAF (Royal Air Force) bases”, adding up to 1 307 jobs could go in Britain because of the cancellation of the Nimrod and Harrier programmes.
Its Woodford site in Cheshire could be closed earlier than planned because of the Nimrod decision, BAE said.
In addition, BAE Systems Saudi Arabia was looking to cut 90 jobs at its British business, the company said.
“Today’s announcement is designed to ensure we remain competitive as we actively pursue a number of opportunities for our other products and services both in the UK and internationally,” Kevin Taylor, managing director of BAE’s Military Air Solutions business, said.
Military Air Solutions, which develops and makes military aircraft, “remains a sustainable business with a strong business plan,” he said.
Unions and analysts have voiced fears about job losses that government spending cuts may cause and the effect this may have on Britain’s fragile recovery from recession. However, recent surveys have pointed to strong overseas demand for British manufactured goods, boosted by the weak pound.
Most jobs — 668 — could go at a BAE site at Warton, Lancashire, with 214 set to disappear at Farnborough, Hampshire and 119 at Samlesbury, Lancashire, which will also bear the brunt of the 90 BAE Systems Saudi Arabia job losses.
The Unite trade union said BAE’s announcement was “a tragedy for the workforce and for Britain”, adding the government should think again about the defence cuts.
“The country that gave the world the revolutionary Harrier jump jet will lose the know-how to build an aircraft like this,” Unite national officer Bernie Hamilton said. “The coalition are denying UK armed forces vital equipment to defend this nation while families across the country worry about their futures.”