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320 jobs axed at Cobham: 'A devastating blow'
9:00am Saturday 23rd June 2012 in Latest
The news was greeted with dismay by business leaders and politicians throughout Dorset.
Peter Watson-Lee, president of Christchurch Chamber of Trade said: “The loss of so many jobs is a devastating blow.
“Many of the employees are local Christchurch people, some of whom have worked for the company for a number of years.
“It is also a blow for the Christchurch Business Park and the Christchurch economy as a whole. The fact that it is a project funded by the UK taxpayer and the loss of the jobs appears to be due to a management decision to move the work abroad, makes the loss hard to swallow.”
Peter Scott, chief executive of Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry said: “Dorset has so far escaped the hardest impact of the downturn in the economy, so when a major local employer makes a decision such as this it certainly would not have been taken lightly, and was done so with reference to greatly improving efficiency and shortening the supply chain.
“While this may result in up to a 50 per cent reduction in the total site headcount at Christchurch, my understanding is that as part of the support service to affected employees, Cobham are actively discussing this with members of the AirTanker consortium to explore redeployment, by matching staff capabilities to opportunities.”
Nigel Hedges, president of Bournemouth Chamber of Trade said: “No-one is immune from the world-wide recession and specialist industries are affected as much as retail and everything else.
“It is obviously with great regret that the Christchurch Chamber and all the other Dorset Chambers will receive this news. Any decision that results in local job losses is regrettable.”
Conversion contract was unveiled with pride
The five-year contract to convert 12 airbuses into tanker aircraft for the RAF was announced with great fanfare in September last year.
Welcomed by business leaders for the creation of more than 100 jobs, the newly refurbished A330 conversion centre at Bournemouth Airport was unveiled with immense pride.
Graduates and apprentices spoke about their excitement to be working on such a prestigious project.
Des Taylor, general manager of Cobham Aviation Services, said at the time the company looked forward to playing a “key role” in the process.
The first two Voyagers underwent conversion at Airbus Military’s facility at Getafe in Spain, where Cobham staff were sent to learn the expert techniques and train. Coming full circle, the contract has now been re-located back to Getafe.
AirTanker faces potential penalties if it is late delivering the Voyager planes, with nine due to enter service in 2014.
The work to convert the remaining 10 planes will be carried out by Airbus Military rather than by Cobham Aviation Services.
Employees say move ‘coming for a while’
One Cobham employee said: “People are obviously very upset. Everyone affected was sent home this morning after a meeting.
“The message was there was work until Christmas and then the contract goes to Malaga.”
Another employee said: “We feel we’ve been screwed over by the Spanish military on the project. Equipment has been turning up late, there have been problems with the drawings. It’s been coming for a while.”
Graham Stewart, a spokesman for the engineering union Prospect, said it had a small presence at Cobham.
He said: “This is more evidence of a lack of a coherent strategy by the Ministry of Defence and the Government of how it procures defence equipment.
“We are two years on from the Strategic Defence and Security Review and the MoD still hasn’t produced any kind of defence industrial strategy, and in the meantime thousands of private sector workers are losing their jobs.”