Hardest hit was the Post Office, which announced 16,200 job losses over the next five years in its Royal Mail and counters divisions. Royal Ordnance, the armaments manufacturer, announced 1,300 redundancies while a further 9,000 jobs were shed or under threat in the coal, car, insurance, textiles, water and film-processing industries.
The toll was compounded by new warnings of lay-offs in the work-starved construction industry over Christmas and a further decline in house building.
Labour and the unions accused the Government of jeopardising postal services by slimming the Post Office in readiness for privatisation. But the corporation said the job losses were the result of the recession and efficiency changes and would not put letter deliveries or rural post offices under threat.
Unions at Ford warned that the car maker planned to cut a further 3,000 jobs at its UK plants and British Coal disclosed that it may have to shed 4,000 more jobs on top of the 30,000 miners facing redundancy. Courtaulds, the textiles group, said it planned to shed a further 900 jobs. The Lloyds of London insurance market said 200 would go. London International closed three photo-processing laboratories with another 200 job losses and Severn Trent Water cut about 100 jobs.
A further 242 jobs are to go in Nottinghamshire, where Guy Warwick, one of the country's largest makers of men's trousers, has called in the receivers. Many of its employees are wives of miners also likely to lose their jobs at Bilsthorpe colliery, one of 31 pits earmarked for closure by British Coal.
The 170,000 workforce of the Royal Mail is to be cut by 15,000 by 1996, as predicted by the Independent last March. A third of those job losses will be in the London area, where four sorting offices are expected to close because of the fall in letter volumes. Post Office Counters is shedding 1,200 managerial and administrative staff.
Bill Cockburn, the Post Office's chief executive, said that the job losses would be achieved through voluntary redundancy and natural wastage and would not harm the country's network of 20,000 post offices. But Alan Johnson, general secretary designate of the Union of Communication Workers, said the cuts could not be achieved without damage to services. 'You can't close four offices in London without it having an effect on the service,' he said.
Royal Ordnance, a subsidiary of British Aerospace, said that, following a review of defence cuts, it would shed 1,300 jobs across all levels of staff, but did not rule out compulsory redundancies.
Ford refused to confirm reports that it is to shed a further 5,000 jobs across Europe - with 3,000 of those in the UK. The reports followed a meeting between union shop stewards and Albert Caspers, Ford's vice-president of manufactuing for Europe, at the company's plant in Dagenham, east London.
In the Commons, John Smith, the Labour leader, called for action against the 'cancer' of unemployment, but John Major replied: 'Our priority has been to create the right conditions for growth.' The Government had cut inflation to under 4 per cent, cut taxes, and cut interest rates to 7 per cent - the lowest in the EC.
Services pledge, 2; Parliament, 7
General Motors cuts, 24; Builders
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