BAe is calling for 1,400 voluntary redundancies across the Military Aircraft & Aerostructures division, but also intends to shed 800 jobs with the shutdown of its Dunsfold site in Surrey, which makes the vertical take- off aircraft and where redundancies may be compulsory. The last jump jet was delivered in 1998; since then the plant has been involved in upgrading existing Harriers. Future maintenance and repair of the aeroplane, extensively used in the Kosovo war, will be undertaken elsewhere.
Attacking the intended closure of the Harrier plant, Tom Chinnery of the Transport and General Workers' Union said the company was engaged in an "asset-stripping scandal".
The cutbacks mean a 13 per cent reduction in the division's 17,000 workforce in Britain, although the group as a whole employs 39,000 in more than 20 sites throughout the country.
More than half the voluntary redundancies are planned at Warton and Salmesbury in Lancashire, but others will be sought at Chadderton in Greater Manchester, Brough, near Hull in East Yorkshire, Prestwick, Scotland, and BAe headquarters at Farnborough in Hampshire. The cost of implementing the cutbacks will result in pre-tax exceptional charges of pounds 250m spread across two years.
While the plans to restructure the business will mean considerable job losses among hourly paid employees, the company intends to recruit staff with higher qualifications. New production techniques will require a higher order of skills, according to the company. Improvements in efficiency and productivity will mean that the Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft will take 18 months to build compared with 36 months for its predecessor, the Tornado.
John Weston, chief executive, said the job losses announced yesterday would enable BAe to accelerate its drive for improvements in productivity and enable the company to maximise the value of the order book which last year stood at more than pounds 28bn. He estimated that had the shake-up been fully implemented in 1998, the results would have been pounds 80m better.
BAe - expected to win official approval of its merger with Marconi - has already announced reductions in employment at Royal Ordnance including the closure of Faldingworth and Bishopston facilities and redundancies at Nottingham and Summerfield.