Workers accuse BAE bosses over jobs axe


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The Independent Online

Workers facing redundancy at defence giant BAE Systems vented their anger at the company today, accusing the firm of not doing enough to save jobs and of "bailing out" of a factory which has been a manufacturing site for over 100 years.

Chairman Dick Olver said job cuts at the plant in Brough, East Yorkshire, were "unavoidable and imperative" because of the challenges facing the company.

Hundreds of workers travelled to the company's AGM in central London, staging a noisy protest outside, wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan Battle for Brough, and Brough Justice.

A number attended the meeting, including David Bird, who was close to tears when he told the chairman during a question and answer session that he faced redundancy after 21 years at the company.

Steve Olsen, told the board that BAE was not doing enough to save jobs at Brough, saying: "You are bailing out very easily. The company can do more for people who work at Brough."

Paul Bell, asked how the board could be given a pay rise when so many workers were being sacked.

He told the chairman that Brough had been a manufacturing site for more than 100 years, with generations of families working there.

He said the decision to end manufacturing had been called Operation Bosworth, complaining that this echoed the name of the last Great War of the Roses.

"I call for an investigation into this - it is totally disrespectful. And how can you justify your own remuneration packages?

"You have not performed and are giving yourselves a pay rise. We have performed well but we are being sacked."

Mr Olver said it was the first time he had heard the term Operation Bosworth and offered apologies.

He acknowledged the effect of the job cuts in Brough but said the company had to respond to the changing demands of its customers.

"Governments are quite rightly taking hard decisions on how to spend taxpayers' money."

Mr Olver said the firm was working to mitigate the effect of the decision to end manufacturing at Brough, adding that hopefully the final number of job losses would be fewer than the 900 announced.

"We will go the extra mile to work with you to make sure it is not 900," he told the workers who attended the AGM.

Some jobs were being saved and hundreds of roles were being created in other parts of the business, he said.

Unite national officer Ian Waddell said the company had made a "fundamental mistake" in deciding to end manufacturing at Brough, home to the Hawk aircraft.

"The company has taken a very short term view which I believe it will regret. They are taking out a world class capability."

Ian Gent, a Unite rep at BAE in Brough, added: "BAE should set up a foundation fund that will assist sacked employees back into work and support their families in the future."

A BAE spokesman said: "As is our standard approach in such circumstances, the company has an external retraining fund in place to support the retraining of employees at Brough in support of them seeking opportunities outside of the company."

:: The board also faced questions at the AGM about the level of executive pay at BAE, the ethics of selling military goods to countries such as Bahrain and the economic impact on Yorkshire of the Brough closure.