The Confederation of Shipbuilding Unions have slammed the recently published Modernising Defence Programme.

Ian Waddell at the CSEU (Confederation of Shipbuilding Unions) had this to say:

After months of delay, this 28-page report does nothing to secure the vital importance of UK shipbuilding. The Government claim that the National Shipbuilding Strategy has secured 4,000 jobs, but the blunt reality is that the Government’s obsession with tendering contracts out to international competition is slowly killing the shipbuilding industry. In recent months, we have seen the intended closure of Appledore, with Rosyth facing a similar fate if action is not taken.

The National Security Objectives set out in the report state the intention of the MoD is to ‘protect our people, global influence and prosperity’, but by showing a complete lack of support for UK industry and the thousands of jobs reliant on the MoD awarding contracts domestically, the MoD cannot truly meet these objectives.”

Waddell also criticised plans to tender the Fleet Solid Support Ships internationally, he said:

“Ministers have hidden behind EU regulations to avoid building these ships in Britain, even though our yards are world-class. British shipbuilding will become the first strategically important industry to fail because of Brexit. Ironically, it is the communities in Brexit voting areas like Devon, Tyneside and Merseyside who are being hardest hit. Ministers say they are starting to listen because of the strength of this campaign and because they’re getting the same message from multiple sources and that it is to be welcomed. European Member States including France, Germany, Italy and Spain all build support ships domestically because they are classed as military ships for national security reasons.

It is through the looking glass stuff when these same countries are invited by our own Government to bid for combat support ships armed with anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare helicopters because the Government says they are commercial ships. By simply applying for a derogation under EU rules we can build these ships in Britain and safeguard a supply chain which extends to some 30,000 skilled workers in every part of the UK. It beggars belief that instead, Defence Ministers are prepared to sacrifice an iconic industry on the altar of competition, pretending their hands are tied by the EU while calling for Brexit.”

GMB and the CSEU also published reports last year outlining why they believe the ships should be classified as warships and why they should be competed domestically. The Unions arguments can be summarised as:

  • The FSS should be seen as warships. They are armed and take part in counter-piracy and counter-narcotic missions;
  • The Government’s commitment to revitalising domestic naval shipbuilding (as espoused in the National Shipbuilding Strategy) will only be achievable with a steady stream of orders;
  • Building the FSS in the UK will help protect the UK shipbuilding industry, protect jobs and retain skills: GMB estimates up to 6,500 jobs could be created or secured, including 1,805 shipyard jobs;
  • Rosyth shipyard will have a gap between the completion of HMS Prince of Wales (the second aircraft carrier) in 2019 and the expected refit of HMS Queen Elizabeth (the first aircraft carrier) in 2030, and FSS work could keep the shipyard operational in between these dates;
  • The UK will financially benefit from returns to the Treasury in the form of taxes and national insurance contributions and lower welfare payments: GMB estimates £285m of the estimated £1bn contract could be returned to taxpayers this way; CSEU estimates 20% of the contract cost could be returned to the Treasury;
  • The Government should factor in the revenue that could be returned to the Treasury when scoring bids between domestic suppliers and foreign competitors;
  • There isn’t a level playing field as, the CSEU argues, “many foreign yards are either state owned, or receive significant direct or indirect subsidy… UK yards do not benefit in this way and are therefore at an unfair disadvantage.”

Overseas shipyards who have been invited to tender for the FSS programme include:

  • Fincantieri: 70% owned by Fintecna S.p.A the Italian owned investment agency
  • Navantia: 100% owned by the Spanish government
  • Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME): received a  USD6billion rescue package from the Korean Development Bank and Export-Import Bank of Korea

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Expat
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Expat

The unions bosses insist government money ( your taxes) is spent in the uk yet they and their members drive German cars and watch Samsung TVs. The order for SSS is insignificant to uk industry compared to a few % more people buying British. I do believe these ships should be built in the UK but I want to know we’re getting value and the yards and unions have a plan to make productivity gains so export orders can be won. The unions will happily take a government order then 5 years having made no productivity gains claim again that… Read more »

Darren
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Darren

This was the whole point about the Parker report, that orders have profits that must go back into the yards and people! The German cars etc, but Government is the paymaster who get the taxes back, unlike the individual who buy those German cars. You say the order for the FSSS is insignificant. So why is it a big issue in building them here as opposed to abroad that cost more like the Tides. Building here in the UK where so many jobs and future possibilities come from in building ships, other than the military in which we have a… Read more »

expat
Guest
expat

Darren – when you buy a British product you keep someone employed, so that person pays tax and doesn’t get supported by the Government, your taxes come down (or don’t go up) so you benefit. Otherwise unemployment rises tax collection falls your taxes go up to sustain services that fewer people are paying for. Not only that, the UK company you bought from has more profit so pays more tax so we can either spend more on services or reduce your income tax. The FSSS is insignificant in terms of tax revenue compared to the tax revenue that could be… Read more »

Darren
Guest
Darren

I am not arguing with you about most of it, in fact I agree. The knock on effect from the FSSS is far bigger than the contract itself. But a one billion pound contract here and there and so on does lead to a far bigger loss. The one billion-pound contract to the UK shipbuilding sector is massive, it is not insignificant what so ever. We buy foreign cars and go on foreign holidays. But “we” are not the government, they pay and get the tax back! Turning the tide have measured it as over 50%, so why you would… Read more »

Steve R
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Steve R

I agree with the unions on this one. The government are simply looking for the lowest bidder to build our support ships, which is disgusting. They can’t hide behind EU competition rules whilst also being determined to remove us from the EU come what may. If we do leave the EU then potentially tens of thousands of jobs will be taken abroad into the continent; we as a nation need to adopt a policy of making things ourselves again and our naval shipyards should be the flagship of that. Every ship for the Navy should be built in the UK.… Read more »

Cam Hunter
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Cam Hunter

Why keep a dying dog living in pain!…. we need a proper shipbuilding industry, building cruise ships like France and Italy does, building warships for export, building survey vessels for export. Not a couple frigates every decade! And the possibility of some RFA ships if we are lucky! What is this? Are they deliberately destroying the ship building industry, oooops I forgot they already have destroyed 95% of it why not the last 5%!. We were once the shipbuilding centre of the globe, but our government didn’t help modernise so we fell behind!. We should use technology now to be… Read more »

expat
Guest
expat

Cam – Having worked in UK industry in the 70’s I can assure you that the unions fought modernisation in many industries. Practices like demarcation and work to rules lead to massive inefficiencies, imagine your run a lathe and the coolant needs refilling, but you’re not allowed to refill the coolant as its a labours job, so you stop the machine and wait. I’ve witnesses these types of practices first hand. Would you invest when these type of practices were common place?

David Steeper
Guest

Good point. You’ll never hear a word from the unions about their role in the destruction of industry after industry in the UK since WW2

Steve R
Guest
Steve R

That is true about the unions. Though government could meet them halfway: invest more in shipbuilding, order more ships and keep it a constant, steady stream, then even with modernisation and more efficiencies, more jobs will be created simply by having these constant orders that would expand the shipyards, if anything. Also, if government keeps orders to UK shipyards then we can show off what we can do. Not only are we building our own ships and preserving jobs but the potential for export is greater, securing or creating even more jobs… these paid for by other governments who want… Read more »

expat
Guest
expat

Steve R. – Generally I agree, more orders but the Unions should sign up productivity goals. Did you hear anything from the unions on the HMS forth quality issues, no. For me the unions in some industries have never really got the equation:

More efficiency = Cheaper ships = More orders

They’re equation is;

More efficiency = Less workers = Less power

Efficiency doesn’t mean working harder it means working smarter.

Of course its not like this across all industries many have had to change, ironically because of foreign competition.

Darren
Guest
Darren

Probably why you are not suitable for this or any discussion as you are too clouded by the past unless you upgrade and modernise yourself. My dad is too and he is pro UK industry but there is something wrong with you baby boomer generation who lost us, with your politics and unions piss poor management (older guys), all our industry and I don’t like it! Sorry, nothing against you.

Darren
Guest
Darren

I am just replying to your first comment. Don’t get me wrong, I am looking for answers to why we are here in this position when others are not as good are doing better?

Dar
Guest
Dar

Countries that is!

expat
Guest
expat

Darren – I work with UK industry day in day out. There’s loads of great people who are union members they’re open to change. I get frustrated when people play the blame game as to why things failed in the past. What I described happen back then, it was very sad but true. We need to ensure we never go back that, so I think it does have a place in the discussion to remind people where we went wrong.

Darren
Guest
Darren

Yes UKIP or any party created by Nigel Farage!

Steve R
Guest
Steve R

I agree with the unions on this one. The government are simply looking for the lowest bidder to build our support ships, which is disgusting. They can’t hide behind EU competition rules whilst also being determined to remove us from the EU come what may. If we do leave the EU then potentially tens of thousands of jobs will be taken abroad into the continent; we as a nation need to adopt a policy of making things ourselves again and our naval shipyards should be the flagship of that. Every ship for the Navy should be built in the UK.… Read more »

Steve R
Guest
Steve R

Oops, this posted twice. Stupid phone!

Simon
Guest
Simon

If it is engineering the UK government will let it die.

The reason is they have no idea what actually built this country and still believe “The City” is what keeps us ticking.

The only high-level figurehead that understands the need for engineers is HRH Prince Philip.

expat
Guest
expat

There’s loads made in the UK and plenty of components shipped overseas. The UK is currently the eighth largest manufacturing nation in the world.

Chris J
Guest

Quite right… A fact often forgotten by internet commentators.

For even a vague idea have a look on youtube for the bit where topgear brought together all the vehicles manufactured in the U.K. on the mall. I like to think that I’m fairly current with the types of things we manufacture in the U.K. and u have to admit even I was surprised by the depth and breadth of what we produce…

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

Manufactured in the U.K., by foreign companies. That is what we are saying. Germany has Audi, BMW, Mercedes, VW, Porsche in their own hands. France has Citroen, Renault, Peugeot in their own hands. Italy has Fiat, Ferrari in their own hands. Japan has Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, in their own hands. We have zero. Destroying your own car makers, train makers, etc. just to allow foreign companies to set up is not the same thing, it is not the same thing at all. Do you honestly think we feel the same pride in a Nissan as a German does… Read more »

Pacman27
Guest
Pacman27

The unions are right to raise this and it needs to be understood that the RN/RFA/Coastguard/RNLI/Borderforce all have enough requirements between them to sustain a uk shipbuilding industry. What we need is a commitment to the NSS and then a detailed plan. The RN alone have a requirement for 3 major surface ships and 16 smaller vessels each and every year and is not a massive amount of funding in the scale of things (circa £2bn pa). It is the nuclear submarine fleet that take the money as this also needs £2bn pa but for 11-14 boats. What we need… Read more »

expat
Guest
expat

Its right this is raised but I see plenty of demands ‘The government should’ but nothing from the unions. Perhaps a bullet that says ‘In return the Unions commit productivity increases of’ wouldn’t go a miss.

Pacman27
Guest
Pacman27

This can be done within the current budget and is within the current force numbers as well (broadly).

We need to decide what we want and how we wish to do it.

Ultimately, defence needs more money – I think even Mr Hammond and Mrs May now understand that.. but we shall see

Aaron the humanist
Guest

The RNLI have their own 21st boat building centre, and the Border force craft are few in number, 5 main craft and a handful of Rhibs.
Its my understanding not a single British contractor bid for the Tide class?

Nick C
Guest
Nick C

Several goods points in this thread of comments. It really is an illustration of the UK government at its worst, with civil servants hiding behind arcane directives and ministers unwilling or unable to challenge them. We are out of the EU for better or worse in three months, so the directives should not apply. Bearing in mind how often RFA’s are used as warships it’s a silly argument anyway. So rather than talking to each other about this how about some action? I am going to write to my MP about this, he is a member of the Cabinet although… Read more »

expat
Guest
expat

So what am I requesting from my MP, the SSS order are placed at a UK yard irrespective of how much they cost? Where will the extra money come form, should I be requesting raising of taxes to cover it or less for the NHS or perhaps we don’t build a space port in Sutherland or fund the next gen fighter programme, Tempest. Its easy to see this as a binary issue the reality its not, there could be better investments that create higher paid jobs to invest the money in. Perhaps we should give up on building ships and… Read more »

Steve R
Guest
Steve R

Ship building is one of those areas we need to keep, protect, and grow, though. If we let our shipbuilding industry die then where do we get our own naval ships from in future? We’d have to buy US ships or European ones off the shelf. If they’re built in the UK then some of the money spent will be recovered in taxes: corporation tax on the shipyards, income tax from the staff working there, and VAT from employees when they spend their wages. Not to mention that having our own shipbuilding industry means were more likely to get export… Read more »

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

Take the money from the £billions every single year foreign aid budget. We will always have a Royal Navy, we will always need shipbuilding.

RayD
Guest
RayD

No ask your MP that the FSS bidding process takes into account the prosperity agenda that being if you spend £1b in Korea it costs £1b that’s if the pound doesn’t tank then it costs more. If you spend £1b in uk with the return of tax NI apprenticeships supply chain shops etc then you get back around 30-35%, that’s why in Germany if you want a Germany govt contract and are foreign then you have to beat the the lowest Germany company by 30% to be considered.

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

I have also wrote to my M.P. and encourage everyone to do the same.

Nick C
Guest
Nick C

Picking up on expat’s comments, I think yup that you can make two points. Firstly as Steve says there is a bonus to placing an order in UK, the contract will employ a significant number of people, all of whom will be paying income tax and NI, making contributions to their pensions, and spending a good portion of the contract value on their normal daily living. Secondly, as Sir John Parker said in his report, what is needed is continuity in the shipyards. Once that is established you can then grow your marketing to bid for other orders as well.… Read more »

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we should build all Royal Navy and all R.F.A. ships in Britain, this relatively constant stream of work would be invaluable to British shipbuilding. We could have a decent sized shipbuilding industry with that alone. These British taxpayer funded ships should be used to support British industry and keep our people in highly skilled, well paid jobs. With a steady stream of work it will be worthwhile British shipbuilding investing in new facilities and equipment, which will in turn increase British shipbuilding’s efficiency, cost effectiveness and competitiveness. And we will always… Read more »

Mr R Davies
Guest

Gents I agree with many comments, however we came into shipbuilding 18 years ago after 25 years in the offshore oil and gas fabrication sector and it was like going back to the 1950s not just the facilities but the management mentality and it hasn’t changed. Until the industry starts employing the right people and listening to them the industry will continue to be in the mess it is. Not a nice statement to make but a reality, the most forward thinking company was Vosper Thornycroft and the labour government managed to get that sold to BAE systems and subsequently… Read more »

Leo Jones
Guest
Leo Jones

I could accept the UK buying the foreign made aircraft, ships and vehicles so often based on fair tendering if the rest of the developed world did the same. But they don’t, they always buy their own product if they have one available, and more and more, even if they don’t, they expect us to build ours in their nation e.g. Type 26 being built in Canada and Australia not here. We bought our Border Force cutters from mainland Europe, no mainland European government has bought an equivalent here. And why should they? If we don’t buy our own, how… Read more »

P tattersall
Guest
P tattersall

Load of crap union barons only look after union barons . They have to come out with rubbish now and again to justify union barons huge wages and expenses .. It keeps the useful idiot sub paying members happy . Will all know full well union barons have no loyalty to the UK or the workers and anybody saying different is lying ..

RayD
Guest
RayD

Wow just wow it isn’t ‘union barons’ who will lose their jobs it’s tradesmen and women across the uk appledore Rosyth Merseyside.

Ben Middleton
Guest
Ben Middleton

What utter nonsense.

Ron
Guest
Ron

I agree that the FSS ships should be built here in the UK. It will keep jobs possibly increase the work market. What it will do is give the industry time to improve skills making them much more efficient. However I do have two issues, one is the trade unions itself. In many ways they are partially if not fully responsible for the collapse of the industry in the 60s and 70s. One of the comments made was about a lathe operator and the replacing of lubricant, I can fully understand this issue, as I faced the same problem myself… Read more »

Herodotus
Guest

Ref the caption photo….what is the excavation in the top right corner. Is it an extension to the floating harbour or is a mega dry dock?

Richard
Guest
Richard

It’s the remains of the work started when it was thought Trident work would come to Rosyth

Ron
Guest
Ron

I wonder if the excavation has anything to do with the decommissioning and the breaking up of the old nuclear subs. It would need to be done in a special basin/dry dock as the reactor will have to be removed so it is possible.
However if it is the SNP will blow a gasket.

geordieman
Guest

ref.Heredotus and Ron excavation at Rosyth,was to be Trident refit and rebuild facility
but this work was given to Devonport to hope to increase Tory voter numbers in the
run up to an election

Richard Hardy
Guest
Richard Hardy

Am loving the comments from all the industrial relations and work study experts from the 1970s rushing to blame the Unions for the procurement decisions of the current government and the state of UK defense shipbuilding. There is absolutely nothing like evidence from nearly 50 years ago to support wring headed opinions. The unionised workforce at Rosyth has just delivered the first of the two largest vessels ever built for the RN, on time and on budget (as PoW is also set to be) through a number of productivity sharing agreements, innovative working, multi-skilling, mixed team working and a number… Read more »

Pooky
Guest
Pooky

I find it odd that the huge corporations that run these yards have been completely left out of the discussion so far. If they want business it is their responsibility to produce attractive products at competitive prices. It is also their responsibility to ensure they have more than one customer. These are not ‘nice to have’ criteria outside of defence and the foreign yards are in the competition presumably because they’ve been more successful at this than British shipyards. The MOD has single sourced to these yards for years, but we still seem to be in a position where one… Read more »

Pooky
Guest
Pooky

To put it another way. The government is being told that it has to invest more money in order to safeguard the future of British shipbuilding. The government HAS invested billions over the past 20 years – but has industry matched this investment? Have they invested in R&D, beyond what the MOD pays for? Have they invested in civilian shipbuilding? In civilian ship repair? Have they invested in anything that would broaden their range of products and services beyond the MOD? If the answer to these questions is ‘no’, then it would seem that the companies concerned have made a… Read more »

Pooky
Guest
Pooky

To put it another way. The government is being told that it has to invest more money in order to safeguard the future of British shipbuilding. The government HAS invested billions over the past 20 years – but has industry matched this investment? Have they invested in R&D, beyond what the MOD pays for? Have they invested in civilian shipbuilding? In civilian ship repair? Have they invested in anything that would broaden their range of products and services beyond the MOD? If the answer to these questions is ‘no’, then it would seem that the companies concerned have made a… Read more »

geordieman
Guest

ref.Heredotus and Ron excavation at Rosyth,was to be Trident refit and rebuild facility
but this work was given to Devonport to hope to increase Tory voter numbers in the
run up to an election

Andy
Guest
Andy

If, like me you believe the R F A support ships should be built in the UK then please sign my petition at https//petition.parliament.uk/petitions/235377