GEC to close down radio plant

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The Independent Online
GEC yesterday made another step in the restructuring of its defence businesses by revealing plans to close a military radio production plant in Chelmsford, Essex with the loss of more than 535 jobs.

The business, part of GEC-Marconi, makes military and civil radio equipment but has been hit by falling orders from the Ministry of Defence and stiff competition. The company gave no explanation for its decision and said the cutbacks were not linked to the government's decision to buy a new generation of battlefield radio equipment from a consortium including ITT and Racal.

"There's no specific reason for the closure. It's part of a longer running downsizing move. Orders have been dropping and dropping and there's just not enough work to keep that kind of set up going," said a spokesman.

The job losses are the third at the site in four years and will cut the workforce to about 500. The remaining staff will be re-deployed in other GEC-Marconi businesses on the same production site and in the surrounding area.

The Chelmsford operations currently employ 3,900 people, working on a variety of radar and research and development activities. GEC-Marconi said it would abandon production of some civil radio equipment, but would move military production to other locations.

Officials of the MSF manufacturing union condemned the closure and argued that it would be a "devastating blow" to the workforce which would also decimate the local economy. Larry Brooke, National Secretary of the union, said that most of the redundancies would be compulsory. The company's spokesman also predicted compulsory job losses were likely, which would hit all grades of staff from production line workers to managers.

Mr Brooke said mood at the company was for immediate industrial action.