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BAE Systems proposes to cut 245 jobs at RAF Marham and RAF Leeming as Tornados head out of service

PUBLISHED: 13:10 10 October 2017 | UPDATED: 14:57 10 October 2017

A Tornado GR4 flying over RAF Marham. Picture: Ian Burt

A Tornado GR4 flying over RAF Marham. Picture: Ian Burt

Up to 245 jobs could be lost at RAF Marham after BAE Systems announced plans to cut almost 2,000 roles as it moves to streamline its business and have a “sharper” competitive edge.

A Tornado GR4 inside a hangar at RAF Marham. Picture: Ian Burt A Tornado GR4 inside a hangar at RAF Marham. Picture: Ian Burt

The biggest cutback will be in the military air business, with 1,400 jobs set to be axed across five sites over the next three years, including Warton and Samlesbury in Lancashire, where the Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft assembly takes place, as well as Marham – where Tornados are based.

Chief executive Charles Woodburn said: “The organisational changes we are announcing today accelerate our evolution to a more streamlined, de-layered organisation, with a sharper competitive edge and a renewed focus on technology.

“These actions will further strengthen our company as we deliver our strategy in a changing environment.”

BAE is facing an order gap for the Typhoon so production is being slowed ahead of an expected order from Qatar.

RAF Marham is the home of the new joint strike fighter F-35 Lightning II jets, a project in which BAE is a partner.

In a statement the company said: “Following the UK government’s confirmation that the RAF’s Tornado fleet will be taken out of active service in 2019, Tornado support and sustainment activities at RAF Marham and RAF Leeming are progressively winding down and will cease at that time.

“Longer term, our presence at RAF Marham is underpinned by F-35 sustainment activities.”

BAE employs 231 full-time staff at Marham and it is understood 245 jobs are proposed to be axed across the Norfolk station and Leeming – which share staff.

Around 375 proposed redundancies were announced in BAE’s maritime servicing and support business, mainly affecting Portsmouth.

Some jobs will also go from the company’s cyber intelligence business in London and Guildford.

Production of the Hawk jet aircraft is ending in the next few years, affecting the Brough site, although Qatar could place a new order.

Around 400 redundancies are being planned at Brough.

Most of the military air job cuts will go in 2018 and 2019, with some planned for 2020 and BAE said its goal is to achieve as many voluntary redundancies as possible.

The total number of proposed redundancies is 1,915.

Shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith said: “This is truly appalling news for BAE’s workers and for communities across the UK.

“The jobs that BAE are cutting are highly skilled and their loss will be felt in areas that have a strong tradition of defence manufacturing.

“It is time for the Government to address the clear uncertainty that is felt by the industry and come forward with an urgent plan to save these jobs.

“This must include the possibility of bringing forward orders to provide additional work for BAE’s employees, such as replacing the Red Arrows’ fleet of Hawk aircraft that are approaching the end of their service life.”

MP calls for staff to be redeployed

South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss, who campaigned alongside this newspaper for Marham to be the home of the Lightning II, said: “I have sought reassurances from BAE that every assistance will be provided to redeploy staff in the many sectors within Marham.

“The arrival of the JSF F35 in 2018 will provide even more opportunities and the range of jobs that will be available by 2019 will be extensive.

“BAE staff have a skill set that will be in high demand and I will work with all involved to ensure future employment is secure for 2019.”

North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham, whose constituency is near to the base, said: “I very much hope that for every job lost another is created in the Lightening fighter jets programme. “I shall be asking for clarification from the Secretary of State today and meeting with Elizabeth Truss for assurances.”

Alistair Beales, West Norfolk council’s portfolio holder for corporate projects, said the council had offered to act as a go-between between BAE and potential employers of those affected by the job cuts.

“The skills those people have got if they’re going into the local labour market would be very welcome should that be something they would want to do.”

Unions: ‘Short-sighted cuts will harm communities’

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “These planned job cuts will not only undermine Britain’s sovereign defence capability, but devastate communities across the UK who rely on these skilled jobs and the hope of a decent future they give to future generations.

“These devastatingly short-sighted cuts will harm communities, jobs and skills.

“These are world class workers with years of training and expertise on which an additional four jobs rely upon in the supply chain.

“The UK government must take back control of our nation’s defence and with it, play its part in supporting UK defence manufacturing jobs.

“Too much taxpayers’ money earmarked for defence spending is going to factories overseas. By 2020, 25p of every pound spent on UK defence spending will find its way to American factories alone rather than being spent here in the UK.

“This state of affairs is not only hollowing out Britain’s sovereign defence capability and British manufacturing, but leaving the nation’s defence exposed to the whim of foreign powers and corporate interests.

“The British government can and should do more to defend UK defence jobs by investing in Britain and committing that long-term projects, such as the next generation jet fighter, future support vessels and Type 31e frigate are built here in the UK.

“A failure to do so and take back control of our own defence needs will be a complete betrayal of the Government’s primary responsibility to defend our nation and destroy decent jobs, skills and the communities that support them in the process.”

Government must ‘stop dithering’

The GMB union has called on the government to develop a strategy to protect highly-skilled aerospace jobs.

Ross Murdoch, GMB national officer, said: “Today’s announcement by BAE is yet another blow to the UK’s manufacturing sector.

“The Government must get off its behind and stop dithering if it wants to save the United Kingdom’s highly-skilled aerospace jobs.

“The prime minister must step up to the plate and forge trade deals with overseas partner countries, as well as delivering a cast-iron commitment now to build the next-generation fighter planes.

“With the ever-increasing likelihood of failure to reach agreement on Brexit, which brings its own economic and employment uncertainty, UK manufacturing needs a strong government to fight to secure these jobs.”

Have you been affected by the news? Get in touch by writing to doug.faulkner@archant.co.uk

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