BAE Systems is to begin consultation with trade unions and employee representatives on potential job losses in its UK land systems business, including the proposed closure of its Newcastle-upon-Tyne site at the end of 2013.
Trade union Unite believes a lack of defence industry strategy has led to today’s announcement from the arms company.
BAE said in a statement that some 620 jobs could be lost at sites across the UK. The company said that this comprises a potential reduction of up to 330 roles at Newcastle and up to 280 at sites in its munitions business, including Radway Green near Crewe, Washington in the north east and Glascoed in south Wales. Up to 10 jobs could be lost at the business’s head office in Farnborough.
The Newcastle proposal follows a business review that concluded that there was no prospect of new UK armoured vehicle manufacturing work once production of the Terrier engineering vehicle at the Tyneside factory ceases at the end of next year. A small team would potentially be retained in the north east to provide specialist support to armoured vehicle customers.
The company has already announced the consolidation of the rest of its UK armoured vehicle support work into its Telford facility.
The proposal under consultation in the munitions business results from two factors: the business is delivering major efficiency improvements; and the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has reduced the volumes of ammunition it requires, which together have reduced manpower requirements. The efficiency improvements stem from a £200m five-year transformation programme launched following a 15-year partnering agreement signed with the MoD in 2008.
Managing director Charlie Blakemore said: ‘We need to adapt to very challenging market conditions and further reduce our overheads to drive better value for our customers and increase our competitiveness in the export market.’
Unite said that the announcement was ‘a wake-up call’ to defence secretary Philip Hammond to formulate a coherent procurement strategy that safeguards the future viability of jobs in the defence sector.
Unite national officer Ian Waddell said: ‘The lack of an industrial strategy for the defence industry is putting highly skilled jobs at risk and bringing economic misery to areas, such as Newcastle, that have already been battered by the government’s austerity programme.
‘Philip Hammond needs to get a grip of defence procurement policy and provide a blueprint to safeguard future jobs and skills for this industry.
‘There is a desperate need for a defence industrial strategy where the government clearly lays out its plans for defence spending, allowing industry to plan and invest with confidence.
‘The BAE Vehicles job losses demonstrate what happens when there is no plan and no visibility. It creates a culture of short-termism and leads directly to the dire job losses announced today.’