CAMMELL Laird bosses have confirmed that 291 jobs are 'at risk' - days after announcing that the shipyard had won new contracts worth more than £600m.

In a statement this morning, the firm said it was in consultation with workers and unions over cutting jobs. 

It added the yard's future is bright and all was being done to avert job cuts.

News that 291 jobs are at risk emerged this afternoon. It has been described as a 'kick in the the teeth' by the GMB union and left staff uncertain of their future.

GMB will hold a meeting with its members on Monday and discuss the proposal with Laird's management next Thursday.

A spokesman for the Birkenhead company said: "Cammell Laird is principally a marine and engineering contracting business.

"This means we can have peaks in demand for skilled and semi-skilled labour, which is the nature of contract-based industries.

"Contracting is our business model and that has enabled us to invest in our workforce infrastructure and apprentices to date, and will do so in the future.

"However, as a result of numerous contracts entering the latter phases, and without certainty in the award of similar contracts in the immediate term, the company needs to address its cost base to remain competitive.

"Consequently there are jobs at risk.

"The company has been working with the trade union discussing contracts coming to an end and those talks will continue this week.

"We continue to bid for numerous contracts around the world and we remain very optimistic for future growth."

On Sunday the firm announced it had won ten-year contracts to maintain nine ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

The Future In Service Support deal awarded by the Ministry of Defence is worth more than £619m.

Laird said the contracts would sustain more than 300 jobs at the company and in the supply chain and create more than 100 apprenticeships.

As part of its new deal, the firm will continue to support the ships in 'lot one', including RFA Fort Victoria, RFA Fort Austin, RFA Fort Rosalie, RFA Wave Knight and RFA Wave Ruler, at an estimated value of £357m.

In addition, it has won 'lot three' covering the four new Tide Class tankers, Tidespring, Tiderace, Tidesurge and Tideforce at an estimated value of £262m.

On news that so many jobs are at risk, Albie McGuigan, GMB Organiser, said: "This decision is outrageous – particularly coming so soon after the shipyard won those lucrative contracts.

"This number of job losses will cause devastation to the community.

"This is another kick in the teeth for the UK’s proud shipbuilding tradition.

"If this Government wanted to help our nation’s shipbuilders it would pledge to keep the £1 billion order for three new RFA's in the UK."