LONDON (Reuters) – British defence company BAE Systems announced nearly 2,000 job cuts on Tuesday, mostly at its military aircraft operations after orders for its Typhoon fighter jet slowed.
The job losses are part of a shake up by Charles Woodburn, who took over as chief executive in July and plans to streamline the business and revamp its air and maritime operations.
The Eurofighter Typhoon jet has won fewer orders this year than the rival Rafale built by France’s Dassault Aviation, as a major order expected from Saudi Arabia has not materialised, although Qatar agreed to buy 24 Typhoons in September.
Britain’s Unite union said it would fight the “devastatingly short sighted” job losses as BAE said it will also cut around 375 jobs at its maritime operations and 150 roles at its Applied Intelligence business, as part of a reorganisation designed to be make the business more competitive.
The group, which employs 34,600 people in Britain, has already slowed production at two of its plants in Lancashire, northern England, which are involved in making the Typhoon jet.
Based on current orders for its Typhoon and Hawk aircraft, BAE said it needed to reduce the workforce at the unit by up to 1,400 roles.
BAE’s Warton and Samlesbury plants will suffer the brunt of the losses as around 5,000 people there work on the Typhoon programme, which is a joint project between BAE, France’s Airbus and Italy’s Finmeccanica.
Unite stood ready to fight the job losses.
“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,” Unite’s Assistant General Secretary Steve Turner said.
BAE said in August that any new orders were unlikely to impact production delivery rates positively for at least 24 months, and production would be under constant review.
“We obviously have to review our (Typhoon) production demand very carefully,” Woodburn said in August.
However, he said he remained confident about future orders for the aircraft.
Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Susan Fenton