Soldiers' email sackings condemned

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The Government was branded "callous, cold-hearted and soulless" today after sacking by email a reported 38 soldiers including one serving on the front line in Afghanistan.

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said ministers should explain what had happened after the men, all warrant officers, were told they were losing their jobs because "the Army has to make significant cutbacks", according to The Sun.

Mr Murphy condemned the soldiers' treatment and called on Government ministers to take responsibility for the incident.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "We can't halt every redundancy in the Armed Forces, but this is no way to treat men and women who have served their country fearlessly for so many years.

"Sacking anybody by email is wrong, but sacking our Armed Forces in this way is absolutely unforgivable.

"Ministers should explain what happened, take responsibility for what has happened and clarify - were any of these soldiers serving in Afghanistan when they received an email saying 'Start planning your retirement now'?"

Mr Murphy added: "There is a problem here. The Government is running the MoD in a shambolic way. It has had a defence review led by cuts, rather than by our military and foreign policy needs."

The men have completed several decades' service and continued in the Army on a rolling contract called the Long Service List.

Due to an error they were given the news that their contracts would be terminated in 12 months by email instead of in person.

The message was reported to have said: "In my capacity as the Career Manager for the Versatile Engagement Long Career (VEng LC) and Long Service List (LSL), I write to notify you that, with regret, I must issue you with 12 months' Notice of Termination.

"As I'm sure you are aware, the Army has to make significant cutbacks and we as the VEng LC & LSL are expected to play our part in reductions."

An Army spokesman said: "We apologise for the distress that this will have caused.

"Commanding officers have now spoken to the soldiers concerned to ensure that they receive all necessary advice and support."

It was reported yesterday that a quarter of the RAF's trainee pilots are to be sacked.

The Daily Telegraph said that up to 100 student pilots would be told they had no future in the service.