Top UK firms announce hundreds of job cuts

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The Independent Online

Top UK firms today joined the growing list of companies cutting jobs as hundreds of losses were announced and fears were expressed of further redundancies.

Almost 600 cuts were announced in the defence, aerospace and drug industries, some as part of wider global job losses running into thousands.

Aerospace giant Rolls-Royce, defence firm BAE Systems and Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca were the latest firms to unveil job cuts, with union leaders fearing fresh waves of redundancies.

Meanwhile an historic paper mill in Dartford, Kent could shut with the loss of 127 jobs.

Rolls-Royce said it would axe up to 2,000 jobs worldwide, including 140 in the UK, after reviewing the impact of the current economic "uncertainties".

Consultations started with unions about the proposed job losses at the assembly and test facility in Derby, part of the group's civil aerospace business.

Rolls-Royce, which employs 39,000 workers globally, 60% of whom are based in the UK, said the announcement was the first stage in a more general programme aimed at matching the group's capacity more closely with the expected load in its facilities.

"Rolls-Royce has been reviewing the possible impact of current economic uncertainties, delays on individual programmes, such as the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 787, and the benefits of the group's continuing focus on efficiency," the company said.

Unite national officer Bernie Hamilton said the news was "bitterly disappointing", adding: "Rolls-Royce must take a measured approach to this temporary downturn in the airline industry. In the past the company has cut too many jobs and Rolls-Royce struggled to meet the upturn in the market.

"If there are to be redundancies in the UK, they must be voluntary. Unite will not accept any compulsory redundancies."

Design engineer Kris Harvey, 35, a married father of two young children, who has been with the company for 19 years said outside the Derby plant: "We knew something was coming but we didn't know the magnitude. People are concerned given the current financial crisis. We all know from our home lives the financial situation with the global economy."

Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca said it planned to cut 1,400 jobs and close three plants in Europe as part of a programme to improve efficiency, hitting 250 jobs at its Macclesfield site.

"These moves are a continuation of AstraZeneca's programme to improve the organisation's productivity and efficiency," said executive vice president David Smith.

"I realise these changes are difficult for our affected employees, with whom we will be consulting in the coming months. We believe these changes are necessary for the long-term strength of the business."

BAE Systems announced the loss of up to 200 jobs in its land systems business in the UK, hitting factories in Newcastle, Leeds, Leicester, Barrow and Telford.

The firm blamed the cuts on a decline in workload on the UK Ministry of Defence's Armoured Fighting Vehicle programmes.

David Allott, managing director of BAE Systems Land Systems, said: "BAE Systems has been working with the UK MoD, in line with the defence industrial strategy, to build a long-term, sustainable land systems business and transform its UK operations to better meet the needs of the frontline.

"In the armoured vehicle sector, we are looking to match our internal planning to potential long-term work load and this has led us to these job losses.

"We recognise the impact these job losses will have on our employees and the communities in which we operate and we always aim to mitigate as much as possible the impact of losses by offering voluntary redundancy where we can, as well as re-skilling and re-training people for alternative roles."

Shadow defence secretary Dr Liam Fox said: "Losing crucial defence jobs at a time when we are still involved in two conflicts abroad is testament to the incompetence and inefficiency of Labour's entire defence policy.

"The losers in this saga are British workers and British soldiers."

Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Nick Harvey said: "The MoD's staggering incompetence over its armoured vehicle procurement programme now seems to be taking its toll on British jobs.

An MoD Spokesman said: "BAE Systems continues to support our existing fleet of armoured fighting vehicles and has the capacity to do so, but the terrain of Afghanistan requires different types of vehicle such as Mastiff, Ridgback and Jackal which are manufactured and integrated by different companies.

"We prioritise getting the right vehicles for current operations with over £1 billion spent on a wide range of vehicles taking numbers to 1,200.

Bosses at ArjoWiggins began a three-month consultation with workers to discuss the closure of Dartford Paper Mill in Kent.

The company said plans to restructure its manufacturing, concentrating operations in Belgium, was necessary due to declining market conditions in Europe.