BAE blames 1,400 job cuts on lack of orders

British industry suffered another blow yesterday when one of the country's biggest defence companies, BAE Systems, axed 1,400 jobs because of falling orders.

The job losses will hit four of the company's businesses and will affect 13 of its sites across the UK, from Edinburgh to the Isle of Wight. One BAE factory, in Chadderton, near Manchester, will close entirely, with the loss of 335 jobs.

A spokeswoman for BAE said the company hoped to make as many of the job losses as possible voluntary. But compulsory redundancies may have to take place.

"Every year we examine our order intake and our capacity. We have to match them, and very sadly, that means the loss of 1,396 jobs. With the UK defence budget as it is, these are the consequences," the spokeswoman said. "The rest of the business is in good shape."

Meetings were held at the affected BAE plants to give workers the news. The group's avionics business, which makes parts for commercial and military aircraft, will cut 430 jobs at four sites - Basildon, Luton, Edinburgh and Southampton. The land and naval radar business AMS, which BAE runs in a joint venture with an Italian firm, will cut 340 jobs. The platform solutions business will cut 290 jobs, including 230 at Rochester and 30 in Edinburgh, while its repairs centre in Chadderton will close. BAE employs about 45,000 workers at more than 70 sites in the UK. It said the jobs will be cut by the end of the year.

Amicus, the trade union that represents BAE staff and others in the manufacturing industry, voiced its concern over the future of the UK aerospace industry following the job cuts. It fears technical expertise and capabilities in the UK are being ebbed away.

John Wall, the national secretary of Amicus, said: "The UK is the second most successful aerospace country in the world behind the US. It is important we retain the critical mass and the technological capability to be able to compete globally. It is vital the intellectual property rights and the essential technical capability remains in the UK."

The company insisted the job cuts were all decided at a local level within its divisions, and were not part of a group-wide strategy to slash the workforce. "The rest of the group is performing well and this does not affect any of our expectations for the year," the spokeswoman said.

The announcement worsens a bad few days for jobs after the closure of the last coal mine in the North-east, cuts at the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and the department store chain Allders going into receivership.