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