DAVID Cameron has pledged to intervene and make sure “everything possible is done” to help nearly 900 BAE Systems workers whose jobs are under threat in East Yorkshire after he met some of them in Downing Street.
The Prime Minister pledged to talk to the company after being presented with a book profiling each of the 899 workers who face losing their jobs under the company’s plans to stop manufacturing the iconic Hawk at Brough and being told of the impact the move will have on the community.
Tory MP David Davis and Labour’s Alan Johnson, who also attended, were upbeat after the meeting yesterday. Workers and families later met Labour leader Ed Miliband.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Cameron said: “I understand the concerns of BAE Systems’ workers in Humberside and am glad that I had the opportunity to discuss this with some of them.
“While this is of course a commercial decision for the company, I want to make sure that everything possible is done to help those affected. Earlier this year, the Chancellor announced the creation of a new Enterprise Zone in the Humber precisely because of how hard the area has been hit and [this week] I welcomed Siemens’ plans to build a factory in Hull.
“Across Government, we are working hard to support BAE’s exports efforts, which help retain high-value skills and expertise in the UK.”
Yesterday’s meeting comes amid fury at BAE’s plans to shed 3,000 jobs around the country, including 899 at the Brough plant, which the company blames on a reduced workload.
Mr Davis, MP for Haltemprice and Howden, and Hull West and Hessle MP Mr Johnson, were fiercely critical of the company’s approach in a House of Commons debate last month in which Defence Minister Peter Luff warned BAE that it owed a “debt” to Britain after benefiting from vast amounts of taxpayers’ money over recent decades.
Families hope the Government could step in to fill a gap in the order book or heap pressure on the company to re-think.
Steve Turpin, 45, whose wife Maggie came up with the idea for the book of workers’ profiles which Mr Cameron has pledged to look at, said: “For everybody in that book it’s their lives and personal situations and when you read the comments of people you realise what the true effects of people being made redundant are.
“For it to be a decision based on numbers and a cost-cutting exercise for the company which is making billions of pounds profit a year, it’s unnecessary. The decision is misjudged – that’s why they need to look at it again.”
After the meeting, MPs said Mr Cameron had agreed to talk to the company and to consider what action Government departments could take.
Mr Davis said: “It was extremely constructive, he was very concerned about the problems at Brough, he undertook to take a direct interest himself and the Government is going to speak to the company at some length and, I suspect, quite frankly.
“We took families for a reason – he believes in families and took the point this is a tragedy for 1,000 families.”
Mr Johnson said: “It was a much better meeting than I expected. I think the people we took from the families were very effective in pointing out this is the end of 100 years of aerospace manufacturing.
“He was very keen to speak to the company about their decision and about what the alternatives are. A meeting with the Prime Minister couldn’t have gone better. Everyone got their say and he was obviously listening and engaging.”
More than 100 workers travelled down from East Yorkshire to lobby MPs, including a rally at Methodist Central Hall in Westminster, although only a small number were able to go to Downing Street.
Later Hull North MP Diana Johnson presented a petition to the Commons signed by 4,385 people opposing the job losses.
Paul Hartley, 52, who lives in Hull and has worked at BAE for 27 years, said: “It’s all I’ve known for the past 27 years and to suddenly have to go outside and find other opportunities, it’s something I’d never ever contemplated. We were told our future was secure.”
The company’s consultation is due to end on Boxing Day. It has described the proposed job losses as “regrettable” but says they are necessary to have a “cost-effective and efficient business”. It has also vowed to explore ways of “mitigating” the cuts.
7,000 Morrisons jobs in store
Supermarket giant Morrisons is to create more than 7,000 jobs next year as it continues its store expansion programme as well as developing its manufacturing and logistics arms, it was announced today.
The company said it will open 25 new stores in 2012, creating jobs including butchery, bakery and fishmongery posts.
More than half the new employees at one of the stores will have been previously unemployed and most are typically from the local area, said Morrisons.
There will also be another 300 people employed at Morrisons’s new Bridgwater Regional Distribution Centre, which will provide food for much of the South West and South Wales.