Pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca is to cut 700 jobs in the UK over the next three years and relocate up to 300 other posts abroad under plans announced on Monday.
The firm said it will also invest £330 million in a new research and development centre and global headquarters in Cambridge. The job cuts will affect the drugs maker's site in Alderley Park, Cheshire, which is in the constituency of Chancellor George Osborne, preparing to deliver his eagerly-awaited Budget on Wednesday.
Unions accused AstraZeneca of creating a "skills crisis" in the North West by draining the region of highly skilled research and development jobs in the middle of an economic downturn.
The company, which employs 6,700 workers in the UK at eight sites, said it is opening a new research and development centre in Cambridge. The GMB said it was "devastating" news for the workers, adding that the announcement meant there would be a net job loss of 1,000 in the UK by 2016.
The company said the investment reinforced its long-term commitment to the UK and underscored this country's global importance as a location for biopharmaceutical research and development. Around 1,600 jobs will be relocated from Alderley Park over the next three years, with most going to Cambridge and the rest to a nearby site in Macclesfield.
The current global headquarters in Paddington, London is expected to close by 2016, with most of the 350 staff moving to Cambridge.
Chief executive Pascal Soriot said: "The changes we are proposing represent an exciting and important opportunity to put science at the heart of everything we do because our long-term success depends on improving R&D productivity and achieving scientific leadership. This is a major investment in the future of this company that will enable us to accelerate innovation by improving collaboration, reducing complexity and speeding up decision-making.
"The strategic centres will also allow us to tap into important bioscience hotspots, providing more of our people with easy access to leading-edge academic and industry networks, scientific talent and valuable partnering opportunities."
Unite national officer Linda McCulloch said: "AstraZeneca's decision to relocate over 1,000 jobs to Cambridge is a massive blow for the North West. The company is creating a skills crisis for the local economy. After 40 years of success and hundreds of millions of pounds of investment, we are at a loss as to why AstraZeneca is now pulling out of Alderley Park. The region desperately needs this highly-skilled workforce - they make a huge contribution to the economy and to the community.
"Staff will be shell-shocked by this announcement. Skilled scientific jobs are in short supply and there are many families based around Alderley Park with deep roots in the community. It is going to be a real struggle to relocate families hundreds of miles away to Cambridge."