CUTS to civilian staff at Warcop Training Area could put lives at risk because the public could end up straying into live and unguarded firing ranges, the country's largest union has warned.

Around a dozen staff formed a picket line outside the 24,000 acre training area near Appleby on Monday and will also take part in another strike tomorrow (Thursday).

They were joined by hundreds of employees from Landmarc Support Services, which runs the ranges for the Ministry of Defence, across 19 sites in a 24-hour strike amid a dispute over proposed redundancies, safety issues and lack of consultation.

It is understood ten staff at Warcop are to lose their jobs under a new five year contract awarded by the MOD.

The union warned lives of the public could be put at risk due to staff, including range wardens, ‘being cut to the bone’.

"The strikes are about the safety of the ranges and how Landmarc wants to drive down wages and increase the working hours," said Unite regional officer Bob Middleton. "Some of our members, who earn a modest basic of £16,000-£19,000-a-year, could lose up to £6,000 in salary and overtime payments.

“The new contract that Landmarc was awarded is based on drastic cutting to the bone in terms of staff numbers, pay, and terms and conditions. This contract needs to be reviewed as a matter of urgency by the MOD."

Mr Middleton has written to the MOD asking for the contract to be reviewed.

In his letter he said: “If the professional range wardens are removed during live firing training it is our view that it will be a matter of time before a fatality occurs.

“During the past year there have been numerous incidents on the ranges which would have resulted in a fatality, if the professional wardens had not been present. All ranges throughout the country need to be in control of fully trained range wardens.”

The jobs covered by Unite members include range wardens, technicians, administrators and estate workers.

A spokesman for Landmarc said: “Our first concern is the safety of military users, range staff and the general public. It is disappointing to hear that members of Unite have voted to take this action. We are intent on continuing to work closely with the unions to reach an agreed outcome.”