The arms company BAE Systems is facing embarrassment today (9 September) after announcing the loss of 1,000 jobs at five sites around England. BAE has long defended the arms industry by emphasising the number of jobs that it brings to Britain.
The company said that there are likely to be 212 jobs losses at Brough in East Yorkshire. This is particularly controversial given BAE's claim in July that their deal to sell Hawk jets to India would protect jobs in Brough.
In addition, 298 jobs are expected to go at Warton in Lancashire. The other cuts will be spread across Chadderton, Farnborough and Samlesbury.
"Potential job losses are in manufacturing, engineering and associated support functions,” said Kevin Taylor, Managing Director of BAE's Military Air Solutions division.
He added, "These potential job losses result from the impact of the changes in the defence programme announced in December 2009, together with other workload changes”.
Hugh Scullion, General Secretary of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions (CSEU) said, “The unions are shocked at the scale of these losses and will be demanding an explanation from BAE”.
But the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said that news of the job losses was “no surprise”.
CAAT spokesperson Kaye Stearman told Ekklesia, “BAE has been shedding UK jobs for several years, despite wrapping their activities in a patriotic image”.
Today's news seems to have validated CAAT's insistence in July that the arms deal with India would not protect jobs at Brough, as BAE had claimed. CAAT pointed out that the planes are to be manufactured in India.
When seeking support in Britain, BAE has been keen to present itself as a British company, although the UK now accounts for only a minority of its business, staff and shareholders.
Campaigners have criticised the level of financial and political support that ministers of all three leading parties have given to the arms industry in recent years, particularly through UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), a government unit that promotes British exports. UKTI devotes more staff to supporting the arms industry than to all civil sectors combined, although arms account for less than two per cent of visible UK exports.
Stearman urged the government to ensure “that the undoubted skills possessed by these redundant workers can be re-employed in productive and socially useful industries, such as renewable energy technology”.