UK Politics

Labour conference: Union demands fight for BAE jobs

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Media captionLen McCluskey, Unite: "Fight back with those communities to defend their livelihoods"

Delegates at the Labour conference have backed a motion demanding that the party fight against almost 3,000 planned jobs losses at BAE Systems.

Put forward by union Unite, it says shadow ministers and Labour MPs must put pressure on the government to "defend key manufacturing jobs".

Defence giant BAE announced the redundancies earlier this week, blaming a slowdown in orders for its aircraft.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said the government must "get stuck in".

He met workers from BAE on Wednesday.

BAE plants in Salmesbury and Warton in Lancashire, and Brough in East Yorkshire will be worst hit by the cuts, losing 565, 843 and 900 jobs respectively.

Research group Oxford Economics estimates that a further 5,700 jobs could be at risk at suppliers and related firms.

'No way out'

Unite sources have told the BBC their motion - which was passed unanimously - has full backing at the highest levels of the party.

It calls on the government "to intervene now to do everything it can to protect these jobs and avoid this mass haemorrhaging of high skilled jobs which are essential to the future of a sustainable defence manufacturing industry".

It also calls on Labour "to demand that the government and the MoD act to defend key manufacturing jobs".

Unite leader Len McCluskey told the conference in Liverpool that there was "no way out of the economic crisis without a revived manufacturing sector".

He said Mr Miliband's meeting with shop stewards from BAE on Wednesday "showed which side he was on".

Mr McCluskey also said the solution to BAE's problems was "in ministers' hands" and they should be prepared to invest in upgrading the Typhoon fighter jet to make it more exportable.

"If they don't, UK taxpayers' money will be spent on American equipment instead of supporting UK jobs," he added.

Mick Darlington, one of seven BAE workers in the conference audience, said state investment in the Typhoon's radar system would "not totally solve the problem" but would make a difference.

"The government should step in and take a hit for once. Once these jobs have gone, they are lost forever.

"If we can make it through the next two years, then there is work on the horizon," he said.

'No false promises'

During a visit to thank Merseyside Police for their work at the conference, Mr Miliband said BAE was "a great British company and we have got to leave no stone unturned in looking to see how we can help them".

"I'm not making false promises, but what we need is a government that is willing to get stuck in and not stand aside."

BAE workers have held talks with several shadow cabinet members.

The vote will be held later on Thursday morning.

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