The new Fleet Solid Support ships that are needed to service the UK’s £6.3 billion Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers will go out to full international tender on the 30th April 2018.
GMB research shows that up to 6,700 jobs could be created or secured in the UK if the order went to a domestic shipbuilder – including 1,800 much needed shipyard jobs. A further 4,700 jobs could be secured in the wider supply chain – including in the steel industry.
The union estimates that £285 million would also be returned to the taxpayer through income tax, national insurance contributions and lower welfare payments.
Exclusive Survation polling, commissioned by GMB, found that 74 per cent of people want the new Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) ships built in the UK. GMB maintains that RFA ships are military vessels that are crucial to the UK’s defence capabilities.
The Government’s current policy is to build all Royal Navy warships in the UK but orders for RFA ships are put out to international tender. Shipbuilding companies from Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, South Korea and Spain attended a recent Ministry of Defence industry day on the Fleet Solid Support order according to documents obtained by GMB under the Freedom of Information Act.
Ross Murdoch, GMB National Officer for Shipbuilding, said:
“The Government looks set to repeat the blue passports fiasco by putting another order of national significance out to tender abroad. Ministers are not bound by normal EU rules on competitive tendering when it comes to military ships. There really can be no excuse for sending our shipbuilding contracts overseas.
We have a highly skilled shipbuilding workforce in the UK that is more than capable of making these ships at a fair market price. We face being sold down the river if the work goes to artificially subsidised international competitor shipyards instead. At a time when global tensions are rising, the Government should use this order to ‘buy for Britain’ and rebuild our defence shipbuilding manufacturing capabilities.
Shipbuilding workers are disillusioned by orders flowing overseas while highly skilled jobs at UK shipyards are being cut. It would be a gross betrayal of the spirit of the ‘red, white and blue Brexit’ that Theresa May promised if this crucial contract is awarded outside of the UK and jobs here are lost as a result.”
Reacting to this news earlier in the week, the First Minister of Scotland stated that the international tendering for auxiliary vessel contracts is a betrayal for the Clyde, despite the yards having no interest in them, having never been promised them and the fact the vessels couldn’t physically fit on the slipway.
Speaking during First Minister’s Questions, she said:
“That work should be on the Clyde, I argue that that work was promised to the Clyde and should definitely go to the Clyde. We should be very clear. What we are now seeing develop around that work and the future of the shipyards is nothing short of a blatant betrayal of Scottish shipyards. During the referendum, promises were made to those shipyards by the Tories, and indeed, by all the unionist parties—the shipyards were told of promises of work for years to come. The unionist parties specifically said that, if Scotland became independent, it would not be able to secure that work for the Clyde, because contracts could not go to “foreign countries. It is an absolute betrayal and I hope that we will hear all parties across the parliament stand up for shipbuilding on the Clyde.”
Sturgeon said the move was an “absolute betrayal” in light of promises made in the run-up to 2014’s independence vote. In fact, what was “promised” before the referendum was work on complex warships, like frigates and destroyers. There are three key problems with this:
- The Clyde is at capacity with the River class and Type 26 Frigate builds and has no intention of bidding for this work.
- The 40,000 tonne support vessels wouldn’t physically fit on the slip alongside the Type 26 Frigate builds.
- The only vessels “promised” were warships, such as frigates and destroyers.
The unions are advocating that the build stay in the UK, not that it be done on the Clyde and this is something we agree with. There are strong arguments to build these ships in the UK.
Jude Brimble, GMB National Secretary, said:
“The Royal Fleet Auxiliary contracts are the key to unlocking the country’s massive shipbuilding potential. But Ministers refusal to put the UK’s interests first will mean that instead of a massive programme of shared economic and employment re-distribution, our firms will be competing against each other for slivers of complex warship work. It beggars belief that the Government wants to give this golden opportunity away to foreign competitors when working class communities up and down the country are crying out for decent work.”