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Business leaders say 5,600 at risk over Lancashire BAE job cuts
BUSINESS leaders reeling from the loss of 1,400 aerospace jobs have warned a further 5,600 people could be thrown out of work as a direct result.
Union bosses said workers were ‘numb with anger’ at the job losses at BAE Systems Lancashire plants, which were ‘of a magnitude that was never envisaged’.
And Graham Jones, Hyndburn MP, said it was ‘the blackest day for Lancashire in a long, long time’.
Now regeneration leaders have called on the Government to help axed workers by ‘thinkin g again’ over their decision to throw out plans for a new Enterprise Zone to be based around the BAE sites.
Yesterday defence giant BAE announced a total of almost 3,000 redundancies across the country. It was confirmed that there will be 565 redundancies at Samlesbury and 843 at Warton, as well as 900 at Brough, East Yorkshire.
The company, the largest private employer in the area, said the move was ‘in response to changes in key programmes’ and needed to ‘maintain competitiveness’.
But unions and business chiefs warned that the importance of BAE in East Lancashire could mean that for every job lost the knock-on effect could see an additional four or five lost in supplier firms and the wider community because of lost spending power.
The official announcement came after news of the job losses leaked out over the weekend.
Mr Jones said: “There are up to 7,000 people who are now facing the dole queue. It is going to be a miserable time for so many workers, both at BAE and at those companies that rely so much on the success of BAE.”
Martin Wright, chief executive of the Northwest Aerospace Alliance, said: “The loss of these jobs will be devastating for the families involved and will significantly impact the wealth of the region.
“These advanced engineering jobs create real value through research and development and manufacturing technologies. Yesterday’s news would seem to be a step backwards for the rebalancing of the UK economy towards high technology and advanced manufacturing.”
Dennis Mendoros, chairman of Regenerate Pennine Lancashire, and managing director of Barnoldswick aerospace supply company Euravia, said the loss could have a ‘massive impact’ on the area.
Mr Mendoros said he wanted the enterprise zone needed to be reassessed.
The new zones aim to support highly-skilled start-up firms and business leaders said it would be an ideal response to the job loss blow.
In August the Lancashire Economic Partnership, supported by local councils, failed in its bid for a Lancashire enterprise zone, which could have created thousands of jobs.
The zone, which will benefit from tax breaks, relaxed planning regulations and high-speed internet links, aim to encourage high-tech new businesses.
He said: “The jobs announcement is a terrible blow but we need to formulate a plan to move forward.
“Enterprise zones are about attracting highly skilled workers with new and exciting companies and it could be a way of protecting the area and supporting and keeping them in the county.
“We need to do something urgently because this is a very challenging period. The losses will have a long-term affect on the supply chain - for every one BAE job, there are four other jobs in this area directly affected - so you can see what a massive impact this will have.
“BAE supports so many other businesses, both big and small. Contractors, transport, hotels and of course other aerospace firms.”
Phil Entwistle, Unison organiser at Samlesbury, said: “The level of jobs losses is at a magnitude that we never envisaged.
“To say I am devastated and lost for words is an understatement. It is hard to take stock. I think the best way to sum up the feeling among workers is that they are numb with anger.
“But the anger will turn to fear.
“Everyone now feels vulnerable. We have just been told numbers of redundancies but not which departments they will affect.
“We are now going to work tirelessly with our colleagues at Warton to mitigate as many job losses as possible.”
He said all of the 4,000 workforce that were on shift yesterday morning at Samlesbury were gathered into four groups at 10am to be briefed by a senior department heads on the announcement.
A consultation has now been launched which will run until December 26.
He said the Government’s defence cuts were to blame for the job losses as orders for the Eurofighter Typhoon combat jet slowdown.
He said the effect of the job losses will be felt throughout Lancashire because of the hundreds of firms that rely on the company as suppliers.
Mr Entwistle said: “It will have a major effect on the economy in Lancashire. For every one job loss at Samlesbury and Warton there could be four or five jobs lost elsewhere.
”These are highly skilled well-paid jobs too that are being lost and these people could now be forced to move out of the county, which will be a further blow to the area.
“The damage to Lancashire this decision will make will be tremendous.”
BAE said yesterday that jobs would be lost at 10 other locations as well as at RAF bases and abroad.
Ian King, BAE chief executive, 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.
“The proposals announced 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.”
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “This news from BAE Systems will be a serious knock to the individuals and communities affected.
"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."
PANEL A 45-year-old Samlesbury shop floor worker, who did not wish top be named, said there was “numbness and fear” among workers at the site in the hours after the announcement.
He said: “It looks like one in four workers at both here at Warton will be gone.
“People are shocked and dismayed, like a lot of people they were worried about mortgages and prices going up and now this.
“I fear it will lead to more stress and people going on the sick.
“I believe much will be done by the unions to lobby support and I’m sure all the workers will be closely watching the level of support by their MPs and holding them to account at the next election.
“What has also annoyed people is the way this came out. It seems every time the company has an announcement like this it’s leaked in the press.
“A lot of us are angry that accurate reports about the number of job losses were seen first in the Sunday papers.”
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