Swan Hunter makes another 285 jobless

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The Independent Online
ANOTHER 285 jobs were shed yesterday at Swan Hunter, increasing fears that the shipyard faces slow run- down and closure.

The latest redundancies brought the number of job losses since receivers were called in two months ago to more than 700. They followed the refusal of the European Commission to sanction commercial shipbuilding subsidies for Swan Hunter.

Of the 285 jobs being lost, 140 will be among production workers, 80 among managerial, clerical and technical staff and 65 among contract workers. Half the redundancies will take effect next Friday and the rest a week later, leaving the yard with a workforce of 1,500.

Speaking after a meeting with Ed James of Price Waterehouse, one of the joint receivers, Tommy Brennan, chairman of the Tyne Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, warned there could be more to come.

The unions fear that if the receivers fail to find a buyer and fail to win a pounds 40m contract from Oman for two naval patrol boats, the redundancies will continue to mount as the yard finishes work on its only order, for three Type 23 frigates from the Ministry of Defence.

'Failure to win the Omani contract alone would mean 100 further jobs being lost, but that could be just the start of a depressing downward spiral,' he said. 'What we need in the meantime is some breathing space, such as a couple of refit orders from the Ministry of Defence to keep things going here.'

Stephen Byers, MP for Wallsend, whose constituency covers Swan Hunter, blamed the fresh job losses on the Government's delay in taking positive measures to help the yard, accusing ministers of complacency and indifference towards Tyneside.