TYNESIDE suffered a huge jobs blow today when defence giant BAE Systems announced it is to close a historic factory.
A total of 330 jobs will be lost at the former Vickers Armstrong factory on Scotswood Road, Newcastle, which is currently making Terrier vehicles for the Army.
More posts will also be lost at the BAE site in Washington, and others in Cheshire and South Wales.
The Newcastle factory has been a defence manufacturing site since 1847, building a number of ships and employing tens of thousands of workers in its heyday.
BAE said the proposal to close the site at the end of 2013 follows a business review which concluded there is no prospect of new UK armoured vehicle manufacturing work once production of the Terrier ends.
The firm said the proposals now under consultation follow major efficiency improvements and reductions in the amount of munitions required by the Ministry of Defence.
Managing director Charlie Blakemore said: “We need to adapt to very challenging market conditions and further reduce our overheads to drive better value for our customers and increase our competitiveness in the export market.
“I know that this is difficult news for employees, and we will do all we can to help them through this difficult period and mitigate the proposed job losses wherever possible.”
Kevin Rowan, regional secretary of the Northern TUC, said: “The announcement from BAE Systems is a hammer blow to North East manufacturing.
“Losing so many highly-skilled and well-paid jobs is devastating for all individuals concerned, as well as to our local economy.
“We are now witnessing the Government’s savage cuts to defence taking its toll across our manufacturing and defence industries.
“This is further evidence that Ministers must urgently review their counterproductive cuts and become much more active in safeguarding British industry and jobs.”
Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said: “The country is seeing defence industrial decline on this Government’s watch.
“Historic sites are closing, jobs are under threat and the defence industry is lacking support.
“Ministers must do more to demonstrate they have a long-term plan to stimulate and support the UK-based defence industry.
“Changes to the equipment programme and ongoing conflicts will impact on our industrial base but, working with the trade unions, all efforts must now be made to redeploy the workforce and save jobs.