Vosper warns 650 jobs may be axed

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The Independent Online

The warship builder Vosper Thornycroft warned yesterday that it will have to axe half the 1,200-strong workforce at its Southampton yard unless it wins new contracts by Christmas.

The warship builder Vosper Thornycroft warned yesterday that it will have to axe half the 1,200-strong workforce at its Southampton yard unless it wins new contracts by Christmas.

Vosper has begun issuing 90-day redundancy notices to 650 employees. They will take effect early next year if fresh orders have not been found to keep the yard busy when work on a batch of minehunters for the Royal Navy ends in January.

Martin Jay, Vosper's chief executive, stressed that the action was being taken as a "precautionary measure" while the management worked "flat out" to secure new contracts.

He said he hoped very much that it would not be necessary to implement the redundancy notices. But he cautioned: "No company can keep people employed indefinitely on maintenance and other temporary work without damaging its overall prospects." The redundancy bill would be £7m-£8m.

Vosper's shares yesterday closed down 47.5p at 1,240p.

The yard has secured a share in a £6.7bn contract to supply the Ministry of Defence with 12 new Type 45 destroyers but work on the first batch of three boats will not start until April, 2002. That leaves a 15-month gap in the yard's workload. Mr Jay said Vosper was pursuing two potential short-term contracts, one in the UK and one overseas, and said he was optimistic of winning one of them.

Overall, the company has an order book in excess of £1bn but this consists mainly of military and civil support services contracts. It has recently won two contracts worth £300m to design and supply fast strike craft to the Greek navy and survey vessels to the MoD but these boats are being built at other yards.

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