London: British defence giant BAE Systems is set to announce up to 3,000 job losses as it struggles to secure new orders for the Eurofighter Typhoon combat jet and slows deliveries to the project’s existing customers amid cuts to defence budgets, British media reports said on Sunday.
The Sunday Telegraph newspaper and broadcaster Sky News said up to 3,000 workers could lose their jobs, all of them in Britain, as BAE prepares for a possible slowdown in production.
The Sunday Telegraph said the job losses could come as early as next week at two of the firm’s military aircraft division plants in northern England.
BAE has a 33% stake in the Eurofighter joint venture company alongside EADS and Finmeccanica and has received orders for some 550 planes from the four partner nations involved -- the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain.
A spokeswoman for BAE said the company would not be drawn on possible job cut figures, which she said were speculative.
“As a company we haven’t officially announced anything yet and our approach to this is, as and when we do, we would inform our staff first,” she said.
But in a statement the company, which is Britain’s biggest manufacturing business, said it had informed staff it is “reviewing our operations across various businesses” to make sure it was best placed to secure future business.
It blamed a lack of fighter jet orders on depressed world markets and said a rationalisation of some parts of the business was therefore needed.
BAE said: “In order to bridge the gap between current demand and future anticipated export contracts the production rate on the current Typhoon programme for the partner nations will be slowed.”
It added: “BAE Systems recognises that the long-term future of Typhoon is based on its export potential and therefore we need to ensure we are in the best possible position to secure those opportunities. Extending the production programme will help us achieve this.”
A spokeswoman for BAE said the review “had more to do with the bridging of the gap between the production of aircraft for those partner nations and any export requirements.”
The firm said it was actively pursuing Typhoon sales in India, Japan, Oman and Malaysia and that exports of the fighter aircraft “remained a priority” for the business.
The timing of the possible layoffs in the defence industry will come as an embarrassment to the Conservative-led coalition government which is seeking to rebalance the economy away from financial services and towards manufacturing.
Unions reacted angrily to the reports, describing the possible job losses as a “hammer blow” to the industry.
Unite, Britain’s biggest union, said it would seek urgent clarification from BAE to clarify which sites will be hit by the losses and would press for redundancies to be voluntary.
The Sunday Telegraph said the plants expected to be worst affected are BAE’s military aircraft division in Warton, Lancashire, and Brough, East Yorkshire, both in northern England.
BAE has already slashed 15,000 jobs globally in the past two years. Chief executive Ian King warned in February that more job cuts could be needed.