LATEST NEWS: 97 jobs to go at Sunderland munitions plant

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DEFENCE and engineering firm BAE Systems is planning to axe 97 jobs at its Washington plant.

The firm has announced plans to shed more than 600 jobs in the UK – including plans to close its Newcastle factory, where tanks were made for World War I.

About 200 jobs will be lost at sites in its munitions business, half of which will be from the firm’s Washington site.

BAE said the proposals, now under consultation, followed major efficiency improvements and reductions in orders required by the Ministry of Defence.

Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson said: “Clearly times are tough in the defence industry, with the winding down of ongoing conflicts and a shambolic Strategic Defence Review, but this is still very disappointing news for Washington.

“I have sought and been given assurances that BAE will make every effort to ensure those workers who may be affected will be redeployed where possible or receive the support they need to find other jobs, and I will follow up to ensure that this is the case.”

BAE said the proposal to close the old Vickers site in Newcastle at the end of 2013 followed a business review that concluded that there was no prospect of new UK armoured vehicle manufacturing work once production of the Terrier ends.

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.”

The efficiency improvements stem from a £200m five-year transformation programme launched following a 15-year partnering agreement signed with the Ministry of Defence in 2008.

The company has already announced the consolidation of the rest of its UK armoured vehicle support work into its Telford facility in Shropshire.