Fears for up to 900 jobs at BAE Systems' Brough plant
THE future of BAE Systems' Brough plant is in serious doubt amid fears hundreds of jobs losses could lead to its "virtual closure".
The company was today expected to announce up to 900 jobs losses at the factory.
It will signal the end of almost a century of aircraft construction at the site, leaving the remaining 400 workers to focus on research and development.
News of the potential job losses leaked out ahead of a mass meeting of staff this morning.
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Hull West and Hessle MP Alan Johnson said the job losses would be a devastating blow to the factory and the local economy.
He said: "The men and women working at the plant are the very best in British engineering.
"The plant at Brough has the most productive workforce not only in this country, but the rest of Europe.
"They have already been through a lot and they deserve the truth about BAE's future plans for the plant."
About 6,500 people were employed at the factory in the 1980s, but that figure has steadily shrunk to about 1,300 currently.
Unions had hoped the last round of redundancies, which included more than 100 compulsory job losses, was the last.
There are now fears the latest job losses will leave the site unable to fulfil future orders for the Hawk jet it is famous for.
One well-placed source told the Mail: "If 900 jobs are to go, that will mark the virtual closure of the site in Brough.
"It would cease to exist as we know it."
Haltemprice and Howden MP David Davis revealed the redundancies announced last year were only completed last month.
During those negotiations, plans were said to have been put in place to minimise future job losses.
"Neither Alan Johnson nor I will be too pleased if the rumoured number of job losses turns out to be true," said Mr Davis.
"We were making plans to help safeguard the future of the site only last year and yet this has happened barely 12 months later.
"What they said at the time was that the problem at Brough was its huge dependency on the Hawk, which often led to either a famine or feast of orders.
"The idea was to reduce the plant's dependency on the Hawk and to split the work between the F35, the brand new fighter jet, Typhoon and originally Nimrod.
"If these rumours are true then that strategy does not appear to have worked, so one of the first questions I will be asking BAE is why it has failed."
Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy called on the Government to come up with a swift response and action plan to safeguard jobs.
He said: "This is a devastating blow to manufacturing in Yorkshire.
"The families and workers affected will want to see action from ministers – and soon.
"It would be a devastating blow if the plant in Brough had to close.
"The community and the country will want to know the Government and the company are doing all they can to provide support.
"We must minimise any compulsory redundancies.
"It's important the historic manufacturing base in Yorkshire is strong and sustainable.
"The combination of international economic insecurity and falling demand due to defence cuts means manufacturing in the UK is taking a big hit."
Overall, BAE is expected to shed 3,000 jobs from its UK-based plants.
It has been speculated up to 1,900 jobs could be under threat at the company's Lancashire sites, which employ 9,000 people. Warton is expected to be the hardest hit.
Union leaders were not given any assurances over jobs ahead of today's meeting at Brough.
Ian Gent, staff convenor at BAE Brough, said: "They haven't really furnished us with anything solid.
"Clearly, workflow is a key element. The future Hawk order hasn't come yet and won't until the powers-that-be are able to sort it out."
Staff were yesterday told the company is "reviewing operations nationally".
Following the speculation about 900 job cuts, one worker told the Mail: "If it is those sorts of numbers, they would be shutting the site. But until we hear something, we're in the dark as much as everyone else.
"We know we're going to be slowing the programme down, but beyond that it's all speculation."
David MacDonald, 42, a technical consultant from Brough, whose father worked as an engineer for BAE, said: "This place used to drive the economy. It was one of the region's main employers, if not the main employer."
The region's two local councils are ready to pull together to help BAE workers.
Councillor Andy Burton, the East Riding's cabinet member for economic development, said: "I know both ourselves and Hull are prepared to do all we can between us to minimise the impact of any job losses should they materialise. I have heard the order books at Brough are still relatively full, so there are grounds for some optimism.
"Having said that, both councils have worked together before after job losses were announced at Brough and we have the teams in place to worth together again with other agencies, such as the JobCentre, if necessary."
East Riding councillor Pat Smith, who represents the Dale ward covering Brough, said: "As a council, I am sure we will be doing everything we can to keep the factory going and to save these jobs.
"It has been here for so many years and a lot of local people depend on it for employment and the money it brings in to the local economy.
"If it went, it would be a very big loss."
BAE Systems has refused to confirm the scale of any job losses before workers are informed.
The company also declined to comment about the specifics of its workflow in relation to the export of Hawk jets.
See the Mail's website throughout the day for updates on the situation at BAE in Brough.
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