600 more jobs to be axed at VSEL

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The Independent Online

VSEL, the Trident submarine maker and subject of a bid battle between GEC and British Aerospace, is cutting almost 600 jobs over the next five months because of a weak order book.

The defence contractor has been shedding jobs since 1990 and yesterday's announcement came as little surprise to the workforce.

VSEL, based at Barrow-in-Furness, is building two Trident submarines for delivery to the Royal Navy at the end of the century, and is due to complete a British Army contract for guns later this year. The company is also working with the Kvaerner Govan shipyard to build the Navy's new helicopter carrier HMS Ocean.

But VSEL said that there was not enough work to sustain the existing 5,800 workforce, which has been reduced from 14,000 in the late 1980s.

VSEL said it would tender for a new submarine contract this summer as well as for assault ships and Type 23 frigates. "It is necessary to keep our costs down when competing for new work, which has made today's announcement necessary," said Ray Davies, personnel director.

Paul Gallagher, general secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, called on the Government to take emergency action to try to save the jobs.

"For the past five years we have been calling for a sensible policy of defence diversification to channel skills from defence to manufacturing," he said.