Union leaders promised to resist any compulsory redundancies and refused to rule out industrial action. Alan Swales, Plymouth district secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, said: 'This is a real kick in the guts for the workers.'
It was the second jobs blow since Devonport won the battle with Scottish yard Rosyth for the pounds 5bn contract to maintain the Trident submarine fleet. Three months later management announced 500 staff cuts, reducing the workforce to 4,400.
Yesterday's move affects 600 manual workers and 250 white collar staff. The TGWU said 2,000 more posts in Plymouth dependent on the yard will be lost.
Jack Dromey, the union's national secretary, said only a handful of workers would volunteer to leave.
Mike Leece, chief executive of dockyard management DML, said: 'There is just not enough work out there for us to win.'