Ministry of Defence (MoD) contractor QinetiQ which runs the Hebrides Range confirmed today (Tuesday) that they have entered a consultation period in regards to jobs at the Benbecula range.
The move to reduce jobs in the Islands is being looked at as part of UK-wide review by the company which is looking to cut its UK workforce of 6,210 by about 200.
It has been reported that of the jobs believed to be under threat in the Western Isles, some would go completely with others transferred to different locations.
A QinetiQ spokesperson said: “We have completed an outline design for QinetiQ that puts the right people with the right skills in the right place to deliver for our customers.
“It creates a number of new roles but will result in a net reduction of around 200 roles across QinetiQ – approximately 3% of our total workforce of 6,210 – achieved through a number of measures, including attrition and some redundancies.
“We are committed to doing everything we can to protect employment, supporting those affected to redeploy them into new roles where possible.
“Our priority is to discuss the changes with individual employees across our sites. The consultation period will run for six weeks and until this process is complete it is not possible to give details of the numbers of redundancies at any specific site.”
In 2009, the UK government proposed job cuts at the Hebrides Range and its associated sites in the islands before the plan was abandoned.
Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil has written to the MoD in regards to the possible job losses at the range.
Mr MacNeil has been briefed on plans by QinetiQ to go out to consultation on posts at the base.
He said: “This is most concerning news and I have been in contact with QinetiQ for further details. QinetiQ is the largest private employer in Uist and any job cuts will impact the local economy.
“I have written to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to see if they approve of the plans and that they have oversight of the changes to the Hebrides Range.
“We know there is a huge defence underspend in Scotland of £1bn and the Government have talked about jobs in Trident but how much does the Government care about defence jobs in Uist?”
Mr MacNeil understands that the terms and conditions of redundancy being offered to staff are significantly worse for those whose contract began post 2001 when QinietiQ was privatised by the Labour Government.
From discussions with QinetiQ, he said it was planned that all redundancies would be voluntary and that they were also looking at redeployment, although he added that this could be difficult given the location.