Unions slam Boris Johnson’s latest National Shipbuilding Strategy

Johnson has re-announced previous cash promised two years ago and failed  to set out details for how vessels would be delivered.

Boris Johnson

Tony Burke is the President of The CSEU

Boris Johnson’s plan for a 30 year shipbuilding strategy announced on Merseyside on March 10th was slammed by the Confederation and Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions (CSEU) as well as its affiliated unions.

Johnson visited Merseyside to announce that more than 150 Royal Navy warships and civil vessels will be built in the UK over the next 30 years. The prime minister said: “The National Shipbuilding Strategy will transform this important and crucial industry, creating jobs, driving technology development and upskilling the shipbuilders of tomorrow, ensuring we are levelling-up across every dock, port and shipyard in the UK.”

But the CSEU said Johnson has re-announced previous cash promised two years ago and failed to set out details for how these vessels would be delivered.

The CSEU said the £4 billion promised will not fund the building of 150 ships. Each of the Navy’s six Type 45, Daring-class destroyers cost £1billion, and the two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers cost £3.1billion each.

The UKs shipbuilding industry supports 42,600 skilled jobs – including in the supply chain, and injects £2.8 billion into the economy each year.

CSEU General Secretary Ian Waddell said: “This money was first announced two years ago. Far from being refreshed, this strategy looks like it has ignored the view of its author Sir John Parker who recommended ‘that UK-only competition should be considered for future defence-funded vessels.

“If the Government was serious about levelling-up, it would get on with the job of building the Future Solid Support ship programme which will pump £1.5 billion into regional economies, throw a life belt to local businesses and maintain the skills base built up to deliver two world-class aircraft carriers.”

Unite national officer for shipbuilding Rhys McCarthy said: “Johnson’s promises to ensure additional work for UK shipyards is hollow when work can be bid for in the UK and then transferred abroad.

“The UK shipbuilding industry needs a constant drumbeat of work so it can invest in the future. The government must ensure that any bid which puts UK jobs and skills at risk is immediately ruled out. Companies bidding for UK government shipbuilding contracts must be required to design, build and maintain the new vessels in the UK. Not only is the government failing to guarantee work for UK workers, but UK shipyards are not even able to bid for contracts on a level playing field, with many foreign bidders being propped up by their own governments.”

GMB General secretary Gary Smith the UK Government was ‘ending potentially every order overseas and is killing investment’, adding that no other shipbuilding nation would dream of procuring its own vessels in this way.

“These jobs are essential to our national security. The world is becoming less stable and we need a clear industrial strategy for the defence sector that secures our capabilities at home.

“With growing threats and Russian aggression, our steel industry and shipyards are essential to national security.”

Prospect’s Sue Ferns (who is this year’s TUC president) said: “The UK’s shipyards must provide high-skill, good-wage jobs right around the UK so they can play their part in levelling-up. Our yards are showing that they can deliver – as this updated strategy recognises. What we need now is more firm orders so that industry can commit to a pipeline of work that lasts for the next decade or more, building up skills and experience rather than working on stop-start projects.”

Labour’s Shadow Defence Minister Chris Evans said: “Ministers are failing to ensure ships are built in the UK and to secure local jobs. One in five ships have disappeared from our surface fleet since 2010 and, while a 30 year pipeline for industry is welcome, this strategy does not address the MoD’s deep-seated issues which mean none of its major shipbuilding programmes are on time or on budget.”

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