Video: BAE confirms 900 jobs to go at doomed Brough plant

DEFENCE giant BAE Systems confirmed today that it is cutting almost 3,000 jobs at sites across the country, including 900 at the home of the Hawk jet trainer in Brough, East Yorkshire.

The firm ended days of speculation by giving details of a huge redundancy programme, saying it needed to maintain competitiveness.

Brough - along with Warton and Samlesbury in Lancashire - bears the brunt of the cuts, although jobs will also be lost at the firm’s head office in Hampshire.

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Ian King, chief executive of BAE Systems, 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.”

BAE announced that it had started a consultation about ending manufacturing at the Brough site, which currently employs 1,300 workers.

The firm said most of the job cuts would be in its military aircraft division, which is being affected by a slowdown in orders for the Eurofighter Typhoon combat jet.

Mr King said: “Some of our major programmes have seen significant changes. The four partner nations in the Typhoon programme have agreed to slow production rates to help ease their budget pressures.

“Whilst this will help extend our production schedule and ensure the production line stays open until we receive anticipated export contracts, it does reduce the workload at a number of our sites.

“Pressure on the US defence budget and top-level programme changes mean the anticipated increase in F-35 production rates will be slower than originally planned, again impacting on our expected workload.

“To ensure we remain competitive, both in the UK and internationally, we need to reduce the overall costs of our businesses in line with our reduced workload.

“The proposals announced today 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.”

In Brough, workers went to a mass meeting where they were addressed by a senior manager. They were then allowed to go home for the day before the site reopens tomorrow.

Local GMB officer Dave Oglesby said workers at the plant had been left “absolutely shocked” by the news.

Speaking outside the sprawling facility, he said: “We were given firm assurances early this year that this plant would stay open - this plant was the most viable plant to deliver the Hawk contract and we have had a complete turnaround.

“It looks, to all intents and purposes, that this will no longer be a manufacturing facility.”

Mr Oglesby said the plant had been in existence for 100 years, often with three generations of the same family working there.

He said there were 70 to 80 apprentices working at Brough.

“Young people have been robbed of their future. Nine hundred families have been robbed of their livelihoods,” he added.

Workers began leaving the Brough plant in their cars at 10.20am. Few were prepared to discuss the announcement.

One worker, maintenance technician Edward Potter, said he was “off to go home to look for a job”.

The 29-year-old, who has worked at the plant for 14 years, added: “It is the end of manufacturing at Brough. We were all resigned to it from what we were fed by the media. There’s not really much else to say.

“There’s not been a lot of work for the last two years anyway. We have been hanging on for the Hawk contract but it has not materialised.”

He said the company could have been more “professional” in the way the announcement was made.

“The vast majority will be out of work at this plant. It is not good for the local area,” he added.

Brough worker Leigh Johnson, 42, a father of one, said: “It has been a big shock. I’ve got a son in the middle of his A-levels. I can’t move but I will have to find a job. I’ve got a mortgage, I’m the breadwinner in the house and I have to do something. I’ve been there 26 years, I started as an apprentice.”

Mr Johnson, who worked as a senior manufacturing engineer, added: “There are husband and wife teams in there, there are plenty of people whose wives work at the site. They will be looking for two jobs, it’s not the best situation to be in.”

Gary Waddingham, 50, who has worked at the plant for 24 years, said: “I haven’t really thought about getting a new job. We will manage.

“My family has been able to save up and pay off the mortgage, but other families will lose their homes.

“I was expecting it sometime in the future but not now. I thought we would get another order but it hasn’t happened.”

A joint statement issued by East Riding of Yorkshire Council and Hull City Council said the news was “devastating” for the local economy.

The councils said they would do everything they could to help those affected in the area to find work and mitigate the impact of the job losses on the wider community.

The statement read: “East Riding of Yorkshire Council and Hull City Council are very disappointed at this grave news of so many job losses at BAE Systems in Brough.

“This is devastating news for the local economy.

“The councils will work with the company and its partners, such as Jobcentre Plus, to do everything they can to help those affected, including providing practical support in finding other work and taking up re-skilling opportunities.

“In addition, the Government is indicating that it will be working with East Riding of Yorkshire and Hull City Councils to support affected workers and on local economic development opportunities in the area.

“As well as help and support to BAE staff, we must also ensure that everything is done to mitigate the wider impact on local jobs, businesses, and communities.”

Unite union national officer Ian Waddell said: “After days of speculation and rumours, our worst fears have been confirmed.

“It’s a dark day for thousands of skilled men and women across the country and it is a dark day for British manufacturing.

“BAE Systems have dealt a hammer blow to the UK defence industry and Unite is determined to fight the cuts.

“Last year the UK defence industry generated over £9 billion of revenue from exports alone. Britain cannot afford to risk the future of this highly skilled industry.

“The Government’s defence review has led to deep cuts in defence spending and significant job losses, meaning it will be difficult to redeploy the jobs now at risk.

“We will be doing everything we can to mitigate the impact of these cuts.

“The Government cannot sit on its hands and allow these highly skilled jobs to disappear. We expect the MoD to intervene urgently to protect these jobs, otherwise the UK’s defence industry risks losing the critical mass it needs to maintain its reputation as a world leader in defence manufacturing.

“Once again George Osborne’s proclamation that he would create the right conditions to drive the economy forward through British manufacturing is ringing hollow.

“The makers are not marching, they are in retreat.

“This Government must act urgently to get British manufacturing on track.”

David Davis, Conservative MP for Haltemprice and Howden, and Alan Johnson, Labour MP for Hull West and Hessle, spoke outside the factory in Brough after meeting bosses.

The politicians said the announcement this morning was the beginning of a statutory 90-day consultation period in which they would go through the details, challenge the decision and put forward any counter proposals.

Mr Davis said they had to do everything possible to preserve production at Brough while at the same time looking to help 900 people in the area to find work elsewhere.

He added that this was the third time he had heard about job losses at the plant through the media, rather than from the company and said the managers should be “ashamed”.

Mr Johnson agreed the way the workers had been treated was “appalling” and said the manager who briefed them had apologised for the way the news had been handled.

“Three or four days of news coverage before anyone sits down and tells them the truth,” he said.

Mr Johnson said it was a “terrible day” and described the news as “devastating”.

He said the factory, which opened in 1915, had a “long history” and described it as a “productive plant with wonderful skills that may well be needed in the future”.

The plant in Brough was a “little oasis of well-paid, high-value jobs”, he added.

Mr Davis described the workforce as “outstanding” and said they had been “brilliant” on each of the three occasions the factory had been faced with job losses.

“They’re worth fighting for,” he said. “The Government will be putting every ounce of effort into protecting as many jobs as possible.”

The potential job losses at Brough, Samlesbury, Preston and Warton, affecting both the military aircraft division and the head office, are linked to the changes in Typhoon and F-35 production, said BAE, while those at Christchurch, Frimley, Hillend, Malvern, New Malden and Yeovil are associated with reducing workload on information programmes.

BAE said the potential job losses at Farnborough have been driven by a reduction in Harrier and Tornado work, and job cuts at Royal Air Force bases and overseas by changes to the support requirements for Harrier and Tornado.

All the cuts have been driven by the need to remain competitive, said the company, which employs around 40,000 workers in the UK.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber told the Labour Party conference in Liverpool that the job losses were “yet another devastating body blow to our manufacturing base”.

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: “These massive job losses show how far off track the recovery from the international recession now is.

“The economic prospects are bleak for families and communities affected by these job losses. They add to a jobless total already too high.

“Business Secretary Vince Cable has to intervene to help create new businesses in places like Brough and Lancashire to prevent the high skills of these workers being lost to the economy.

“The mixed economy of the public and private sectors working together to create new jobs is essential in this grim situation.”

Mr Cable said: “This news from BAE Systems will be a serious knock to the individuals and communities affected.

“My officials and the BIS (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) local teams are already in touch with the company, local authorities and local enterprise partnerships to make sure that everything possible is done to help those affected at Brough, Warton, Samlesbury and other sites.

“Last year I set up the Skills and Jobs Retention Group to help skilled workers find new jobs in UK manufacturing.

“The group will ensure that the shortage of engineers in UK manufacturing is not exacerbated by the loss of talented people from companies like BAE Systems.

“The group has set up a new national web-based system to make it easier for companies to recruit skilled workers who have been made redundant and the JobCentre Plus Rapid Response Service is also on hand to provide a range of support measures.”

Godfrey Bloom, UKIP MEP for Yorkshire and the party’s defence spokesman, said: “These job losses are an absolute tragedy, not just for my constituents in Brough, but across the UK.

“BAE cites the need to remain competitive as a reason behind these redundancies and of course this is a necessity for any modern-day business, but there are other ways of remaining competitive and reducing costs aside from making people unemployed.

“The UK has increasingly become a restrictive and costly place to operate in due to the burden of business regulation generated here and from Brussels.

“If the Government wants to stop further redundancies from companies like BAE, it should actively create a less complex and cheaper climate for businesses to operate in.

“The Government says it is on the side of enterprise, but actions speak louder than words.”

• More reports in Wednesday’s Yorkshire Post