Government ‘not to blame’ as BAE announces 2,000 job losses, says minister
But unions and opposition politicians attack the Tory leadership’s industrial strategy
BAE Systems is to cut almost 2,000 UK jobs in its military, maritime and intelligence services, sparking anger from unions and politicians.
The announcement today by Britain’s biggest defence contractor, which employs some 34,600 people in Britain, “is a significant blow to the country’s manufacturing sector and the Government’s industrial strategy”, says The Guardian.
The job losses are part of a cost-cutting restructuring programme, as BAE looks to slow production of Typhoon fighter jets in order to accommodate an order gap before an expected deal with Qatar is finalised.
Accordingly, the majority of the 1,915 redundancies will be made at the aerospace bases in Warton and Samlesbury in Lancashire, where the parts for the Typhoon are made.
Amid stiff competition from the new F-35, BAE had been hoping to make up the shortfall by increased Typhoon orders from Saudi Arabia, “but the political controversy surrounding arms sales to the Middle East Kingdom probably hasn’t helped”, says BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Beale.
The Unite union vowed to fight what it called a “devastatingly short-sighted” decision.
Unite’s assistant general secretary, Steve Turner, said: “These planned job cuts will not only undermine Britain’s sovereign defence capability, but devastate communities across the UK who rely on these skilled jobs and the hope of a decent future they give to future generations.”
The Ministry of Defence faces a big budget hole after miscalculating the cost of the Trident nuclear programme. Unions have also criticised the Government for buying military equipment from the US.
Unite estimates that by 2020, a quarter of Britain’s defence spend will be going to US companies such as Boeing - which has recently been the subject of a diplomatic row between Washington and London over the 300% import tariffs imposed on Bombardier C-series planes, the wings of which are made in Northern Ireland.
Answering questions about the BAE cuts in Parliament this afternoon, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Minister Claire Perry said the Government was “reviewing what support we can lend the company”, and insisted that the job losses were “not related to any UK defence spending decisions”.
However, Labour shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith said: “It is time for the Government to address the clear uncertainty that is felt by the industry and come forward with an urgent plan to save these jobs.”
“This must include the possibility of bringing forward orders to provide additional work for BAE’s employees, such as replacing the Red Arrows’ fleet of Hawk aircraft that are approaching the end of their service life,” she added.
What BAE needs “is a clear signal from its main customer, the Ministry of Defence, as to what comes next after the F-35”, says Jonathan Beale. The BBC correspondant notes that while the UK now has an industrial strategy to sustain the production of warships in the UK, “it does not appear to have a similar strategy for the air defence sector”.