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Angry workers barrack BAE bosses over the closure of Hawk jet plant

BAE Systems hit a wall of opposition yesterday as 550 angry staff from Brough in East Yorkshire travelled to London to protest against the defence giant's decision to close their town's Hawk jet manufacturing plant.

At an often bad-tempered annual meeting, BAE's chairman, Dick Olver, insisted he was "talking to a lot of people about how the site can be re-used".

Against a backdrop of frequent jeering, an increasingly irritable Mr Olver said government spending cuts in key markets such as the UK and US made it essential for BAE to reduce costs.

"I very much recognise the pain and distress that this decision has caused," Mr Olver said, adding that a failure to take decisive action threatened the "viability of all our businesses".

"We don't think you're doing all that you can – you're bailing out too easily. I believe as a company you can do more," said one Brough employee, to rapturous applause.

Another, Paul Bell, criticised the £2.4m pay and bonus package that the chief executive, Ian King, received in 2011, marginally ahead of the year before despite a 7 per cent decline in profits.

"We're a very skilful workforce and are performing, yet you are sacking us. You're not performing, yet you're giving yourselves pay rises," he said.

Nearly 9 per cent of shareholders voted against BAE's remuneration report. Including abstentions, 11.5 per cent failed to back the report.

Up to 899 jobs are set to go at Brough, which makes the Hawk jets flown by the Red Arrows. A small support services unit will remain at the site.

Mr Bell also asked for – and received – an apology from Mr Olver on behalf of BAE management who had "disrespectfully" nicknamed the closure of the Yorkshire plant "Operation Bosworth", in a nod to the final War of the Roses battle where the House of York was defeated by the House of Lancaster's Henry Tudor. Production of any new Hawk orders will be carried out at two Lancashire sites.