Bombardier job cuts spark fears for Derby factory

Workers at Bombardier in Derby
Image caption Experts said job cuts could impact on thousands of employees in associated firms

Train maker Bombardier's plans to cut more than 1,400 jobs in Derby raises doubts over the future of the plant, the Unite union has said.

Bombardier, which missed out on the £1.4bn Thameslink contract last month, plans to cut 446 permanent jobs and 983 temporary contract staff at the site.

It said there were not enough future orders to keep the plant operating at current levels.

It is the UK's last train-making factory and employs 3,000 people.

"The decision puts a question mark over the future of Bombardier's Derby site, not to mention the local supply chain which has the biggest concentration of train supply companies in Europe," a Unite spokesman said.

The union said the cuts were a "direct result" of the government's decision to award the Thameslink contract - to build 1,200 carriages for the route between Bedford and Brighton - to German group Siemens.

Mark Young, regional co-ordinator for Unite in the East Midlands, said the government should "call in" the decision because of the "social and economic impact" the job losses would have in the region and industry.

"We will campaign night and day to protect these jobs," he said.

Mr Young said the job losses would hit council tax revenues and income tax available and also have a deep impact on the wider supply chain in Derbyshire.

But Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said that under the terms of the Thameslink contract, which was drawn up by the previous government, the Siemens bid represented the best value for money and therefore, under European law, had to be accepted.

'Absolutely devastated'

Bombardier, which is based in Canada, has estimated it supports 12,000 employees in its UK supply chain.

There are about 100 smaller firms in Derby which supply the factory.

Philip Hickson, Conservative leader of Derby City Council, said initial estimates suggested the loss of the contract would cost the local economy between £150m and £200m.

"I'm absolutely devastated by this decision," he said.

Francis Paonessa, president of the passengers' division for Bombardier in the UK, said it was a very difficult day for the employees.

"I started the workforce presentations to them all at six o'clock this morning," he said.

"They're going on through the day and I can say it was particularly difficult to stand in front of everyone and explain to them just the sheer scale of the job losses we're now facing."

Mr Paonessa said more than half of the redundancies to permanent workers affected highly-skilled engineering, procurement and project managers.

"They take years to train and are the heart of the business," he said.

'Devastating to community'

He said the Litchurch Lane site had seen record levels of production this year and workers had been "bitterly disappointed" they did not get the Thameslink contract.

Bombardier has begun a 90-day consultation process over the job cuts.

Kevin Owen, a welder from Derby who has worked at Bombardier for 24 years, said: "The biggest worry is that this is the beginning of the end if we don't win another contract.

"I have had holidays rather than children, so I don't have that worry, but I see colleagues who have wives and kids and the job losses will just be devastating to the community.

"A lot of our work is outsourced, so there's a knock-on effect for other local companies, and also to small sandwich shops around the site."

Image caption The firm had been planning to make the Derby plant a centre of excellence

Graham Tye is UK sales manager for BA Hoses and Fittings, which is one Bombardier's suppliers.

He said: "For a firm like ourselves it's devastating because straight away we can say that there's 20% of our budget that's basically going to disappear and where can you look now in the current economic climate to get 20% to fill that void?"

Margaret Beckett, Labour MP for Derby South, said Bombardier had warned the government about the possible impact the loss of the contract would have on its skilled workforce.

"These are the people who are key to the future in Derby, " she said.

"They are also the people who are the signal of Bombardier's hopes for the future in Derby and in the UK."

Ms Beckett said the company had also pledged to create a worldwide centre of excellence for Bombardier in the city and a centre for exports which "we are at risk of losing".

She added: "I will do everything I can to try and sort this out."

Meanwhile, the Bishop of Derby Dr Alastair Redfern issued a statement in support of the workers.

He said: "I regret the loss of jobs amongst such a skilled workforce and I will be joining with others to press the government about its strategic plans for a strong industrial base for the country and where Derby fits in."

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