Hewlett-Packard's 850 UK job cuts anger unions

Union leaders accused the Government of failing Britain's manufacturing industry yesterday after Hewlett-Packard announced plans to outsource nearly 850 factory jobs from Scotland to the Czech Republic.

The measures are part of the US IT giant's plans to cut its 80,000-strong European workforce by 5,700 over the next two years in response to tough market conditions. Earlier this month, the company said its second-quarter profit had fallen by 17 per cent and forecast that sales would shrink by up to 5 per cent in the year to October. The jobs to be lost at HP's computer factory at Erskine, near Glasgow, come on top of 150 already lost when night-shift working was withdrawn earlier this year. Of the 1,300 staff left after the first cull, fewer than 500 are now expected to remain.

Trade unions said the cutbacks were further evidence of the Government's lack of support for British manufacturers. John Quigley, the Scottish regional secretary for Unite, said: "When more than £900bn of public funds can be poured into bailing out banks, it is utterly unacceptable that help cannot be directed into a sector fundamental to nurturing our economic revival."

Unite is calling for urgent assistance to defend manufacturing jobs including short-term working subsidies, investment incentives and an overhaul of "shamefully weak" redundancy laws. Mr Quigley added: "Westminster offers no meaningful investment and Holyrood doesn't even recognise manufacturing as a key plank of their economic plan."

Erskine's Labour MP Jim Sheridan, who represents Paisley and Renfrewshire North, said: "I am deeply worried that management are using the global downturn to their own advantage, exporting jobs from Scotland to exploit cheap labour in eastern Europe."

In response, the Government listed a series of measures designed to help manufacturers, including the £1bn Enterprise Finance Guarantee to support lending, of which £400m of eligible applications have been granted or are being assessed.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Business said: "We know how tough it is for manufacturers. We are doing all we can to help them through the current global downturn."