New ship contracts to sail out of UK workers’ reach?
Govt ‘flag of convenience’ scheme won’t help UK shipbuilding communities
Unite has condemned a ‘smoke and mirrors’ government bidding process that could see a major contract to build three new Royal Navy support vessels sail out of the reach of UK shipbuilders.
The government launched the competition to build the three fleet solid support ships, which will carry munitions and provisions for the UK’s aircraft carriers, in late May.
The union is extremely concerned that the UK government is allowing bidders to work in partnership with foreign companies to create a false image of work being integrated into UK yards.
The reality behind the competition is that it could see most of the work carried out by the Navantia shipbuilding company in Spain.
Unite national officer for shipbuilding, Rhys McCarthy, said the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, believes that if minor work is undertaken in a UK shipyard and a Union Jack flag is stuck on the final product, the British public will be fooled into thinking the ships were made in Britain.
He said using the Union Jack as a ‘flag of convenience’ in such a manner would result in UK workers’ jobs and skills being sold out and seriously damage the UK shipbuilding industry.
“Our world class workforce and the UK-based companies they work for recently delivered two state of the art aircraft carriers to the Royal Navy,” McCarthy commented.
“We need a UK government to move on from soundbites to actually putting its trust, faith and taxpayer’s money into our workers at UK shipyards.
“The current haphazard policy of feast and famine is not conducive to either developing products or skills and neither will it secure employment in a sector reliant on government funding”
Rhys McCarthy, Unite national officer for shipbuilding
“UK shipyard workers are seeking clarity from the government because this policy is creating concern, resentment and fear for the future.”
McCarthy went onto add that the UK’s shipyards are in parts of the country which should be at the forefront of the government’s levelling up agenda.
“If the work isn’t fully awarded to UK yards it would be a betrayal of those commitments and these communities. As part of the UK leaving the EU, it was promised that in future such major strategic defence contracts would prioritise UK manufacturing and jobs.
“But despite some ‘smoke and mirrors’, it currently appears that nothing has really changed. The government must not allow a flag of convenience style scheme to be used to build the fleet solid support ships.”
After the government published its Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy in March, Unite expressed concern at delays to a large number of shovel ready defence contracts, which it said threatened the future of UK jobs and skills.
Calling on ministers to ensure strategic investment in UK jobs, R&D and manufacturing, McCarthy said, “The government needs to dramatically improve its procurement policy to maintain the UK’s cutting-edge defence industries.
“The current haphazard policy of feast and famine is not conducive to either developing products or skills and neither will it secure employment in a sector reliant on government funding.”
By Ryan Fletcher