170 Jobs Cut At Gateshead Passport Makers

25 June 2019, 16:05 | Updated: 25 June 2019, 16:09

Blue Passport

Banknote maker De La Rue has announced plans to shut a print line at its Gateshead works, placing up to 171 jobs at risk of redundancy.

The company made the decision just over a year after it hit harder times when it failed to win a £450m government contract to produce blue post-Brexit passports - ironically awarded to a French-Dutch conglomerate.

De La Rue has issued a number of profit warnings since and seen its chief executive quit as it scrambles to fill the void.

On Monday, it was announced that chairman Philip Rogerson and another senior director were to leave too.

The company's troubles have not been aided by Venezuela's financial and political crisis that has seen US sanctions hit the country's ability to pay its currency contract.

De La Rue's full year results, which saw profits dive by 74%, included an £18m charge linked to Venezuela.

Commenting on the proposed cuts to the Gateshead plant, a De La Rue spokesperson told Sky News: "As the world's largest commercial banknote printer, we regularly review our operational footprint to ensure it meets global demand.

"We are currently in the final stages of a footprint restructuring programme that was announced in 2015 to ensure our business continues to be competitive on a global scale.

"As part of that programme we are proposing to shut one of the print lines in Gateshead and are currently consulting with all parties concerned on this proposal."

The Unite union said the job cuts were on top of 100 passport-printing jobs due to go in the next few months and claimed there was a link to the loss of the UK passport contract.

National officer, Louisa Bull, said: "The government's short-sighted and blinkered decision to award the printing of post-Brexit UK passports, worth £490m, to French-Dutch firm Gemalto seriously undermined the financial viability of the Gateshead operation."

She added: "This is devastating news for the workforce, their families and also for the north east economy which can ill-afford to lose such skilled jobs."