WORKERS at the Cammell Laird shipyards in the region are hoping for some good news next week after discovering that 250 of their colleagues on Merseyside are facing the axe.

A decision on whether the £344m contract to build two luxury liners for American firm, Luxus, will qualify for a massive Government subsidy from the Department of Trade and Industry's shipbuilding intervention fund, is expected next week.

The group revealed it had been forced to lay off 250 workers at its Birkenhead shipyard, while it tried to rescue a £51m contract to upgrade an Italian cruise liner.

Cammell Laird said the jobs will go with immediate effect because of ''continuing uncertainty'' over the contract to fit a new section to the Costa Classica.

The vessel was on its way to the Birkenhead yard last month when it was dramatically ordered to turn back amid claims from the Italians of delays in the work.

The group is expected to discover next week whether it will play a major role in building the first cruise ships to be built in the UK for decades.

GMB regional organiser Kevin Rowan said: "It is obviously disappointing to hear about the redundancies on Merseyside, especially as they have come through no fault of Cammell Laird.

"We are unaware of any knock-on effect on Cammell's North-East operations, and we are hoping for some positive news for the shipyards next week.

"We are expecting notification from the DTI regarding the subsidy for the Luxus contract."

Cammell Laird is expected to share the work between its yards on Tyneside, Teesside, Merseyside and Gosport, with the contract for two 28,000-ton 400-berth luxury liners. An option is also said to exist for two further ships for the new cruise company.

The last cruise liner built in this country was the Vistafjord, constructed by the legendary Swan Hunter on the Tyne in 1973.

Talk of a major new contract will come as a significant boost to North-East Cammell Laird workers, who recently saw a £300m contract of six Army ferries lost to rival yards in Britain and Germany.