BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest defence contractor, is to axe more than 1,000 jobs this week in a bitter blow for Britain’s manufacturing industry.
Sky News has learnt that BAE will announce that many of the job cuts will affect its Warton plant in Preston, Lancashire, with the company’s new chief executive, Charles Woodburn, also “trimming” its workforce at other locations.
Insiders said the number of jobs being axed would number “well over 1,000”, although the precise figure was unclear on Monday.
BAE employs 34,600 people in the UK, nearly half of its 83,000-strong global workforce.
The move is certain to ignite a furious political row because of the timing of the cuts, with heightened sensitivity over workforce reductions at major exporters amid uncertainty over the terms of Brexit.
Sources said that Brexit was “not a factor” in the BAE decision.
The issue is nevertheless likely to be raised at a meeting that Theresa May is holding with business leaders – including the bosses of manufacturers and industrial groups such as Balfour Beatty, GlaxoSmithKline and JCB – later on Monday.
The Warton job cuts are understood to relate largely to a continued slowdown in production of the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter aircraft, with ongoing uncertainty about the timing of a potentially large order from Saudi Arabia.
BAE announced last month that it had secured an order for 24 of the combat aircraft from Qatar, a deal hailed by the Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon as “an important moment in our defence relationship and the basis for even closer defence co-operation between our two countries”.
The latest round of redundancies are expected to be made public on Tuesday – although a source suggested that they could be brought forward to later on Monday as a result of their early disclosure.
The news will come just three months after Mr Woodburn replaced Ian King as BAE’s chief executive, and will reflect some of his initial thinking about the cost base of one of Britain’s most important manufacturers, according to insiders.
“We obviously have to review our (Typhoon) production demand very carefully,” Mr Woodburn said in August.
“We are confident that we will win further Typhoon orders, what we can’t be confident around is the timing.”
One defence industry source said it was conceivable that more than two-thirds of Warton’s workforce could be at risk from future rounds of cuts.
The company said: “BAE Systems continually reviews its operations to make sure we are performing as effectively and efficiently as possible, delivering our commitments to existing customers and ensuring we are best placed to secure future business.
“If and when there are any changes proposed we are committed to communicating with our employees and their representatives first.”