Over 1 100 jobs to go as BAE shuts Nimrod site

Defence giant BAE Systems is to axe 1,100 jobs in cuts that will affect a number of sites, including Woodford in Cheshire, which will close.

Workers at the factory - where more than 4,000 Lancaster bombers were built during the Second World War - said it was "a sad day", after BAE Systems announced it will shut the site.

The firm is planning to close Woodford at the end of 2012, on completion of the Nimrod MRA4 production contract, with the loss of 630 jobs. A further 205 jobs will be lost at Samlesbury in Lancashire, 170 at Warton in Lancashire and 111 at Farnborough in Hampshire.

Managers broke the news to staff in a meeting yesterday morning, telling workers they might be able to transfer to another site, but that many will be made redundant. Many workers said they already knew the plant would shut, however.

"The announcement is not unexpected, we have been building up to it for about a year now. It is not like we will be thrown out of work instantly, we have got several years to plan our future," said Andy Jackson, a logistics operator from Macclesfield, Cheshire, who has worked at the factory for nearly 30 years.

Jackson, who helps to build Nimrod planes for the RAF, added: "My father worked here before me and I have been here for 29 years so it is a sad day. He came here in his mid twenties and worked here for 30-odd years, and built the Vulcan bomber. So we have got a lot of history with the site."

Craig Hopkinson, a site manager at the plant, confirmed the news did not come as a shock to the workers. "We knew it was going to shut, this has just made it official. We will still carry on and build the aircraft. We have got a professional job to do and we will carry on doing it to the best of our abilities. The management have said that they will work with us to protect our jobs as best as they can," he said.

But Chris Fletcher, deputy chief executive of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, urged BAE Systems to keep the factory open. He said: "This is a blow to the Greater Manchester economy. These are skilled jobs that we do not want to lose.

"We would urge BAE Systems to rethink its decision. But if these redundancies cannot be avoided we would ask that staff are given all the support they need to find new employment in what is a difficult jobs market."

BAE later announced that, following a detailed review of its current and future business levels, it had started consultation on the potential closure of Woodford and cuts at another three sites, with the loss of 1,116 jobs.

It said in a statement: "It has been clear since 2003 that the Woodford site had little future beyond the end of Nimrod MRA4 production, and the workforce has been kept informed since that time.

"Despite strenuous efforts to achieve further Nimrod production work, there has been none forthcoming. It is intended that there will be a phased run-down of the site in line with the production programme.

"At Samlesbury, the potential job losses are in the manufacturing function and are associated with the end of Airbus work currently undertaken by BAE Systems for Spirit AeroSystems.

"At Warton, the potential job losses are in the manufacturing and operations areas as work on the Nimrod, Tornado and Hawk programmes decreases.

"At Farnborough the potential job losses are in the Harrier business. The job losses are as a result of a downturn in Harrier upgrade work over the next few years."

Kevin Taylor, managing director of BAE's Military Air Solutions arm, said: "Whilst we regret having to make this announcement, we have to ensure we are the right size and shape to remain competitive and meet our customer's requirements in the future.

"We will work with our employees and their representatives to explore ways of mitigating these potential job losses and we will do everything necessary to deal with the potential job losses and closure of Woodford in a professional way and support our people throughout this process."

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