A report claims that delays in the construction of the Type 26 Frigate have had a negative impact on the development of the workforce on the Clyde.
The recently released report ‘Restoring the Fleet: Naval Procurement and the National Shipbuilding Strategy’, states that:
“It is clear to us that the delays in the construction of the Type 26 have had a negative impact on the development of the workforce on the Clyde.
Apprenticeships are not being offered at the necessary rate, and those currently undertaking apprenticeships are having their skills training disrupted. Furthermore, workers are being required to move from Scotland to Barrow in order for them to undertake meaningful work.
We welcome the efforts made by the trades unions and BAE to retain the workforce during this period of uncertainty, but remain deeply concerned by warnings that further delay could be “catastrophic” for the skills base.”
The report also states:
“The decision to build the OPVs in advance of the Type 26 also has an impact on the workforce. Duncan McPhee, Manual Convenor (Scotstoun), Unite, told us that while he welcomed the work the additional orders would bring, it should not be seen as a replacement for the delays in the Type 26 programme.
Mr McPhee also highlighted the fact that the absence of work on the Type 26 was undermining the ability to provide apprenticeships. Following the start of the construction phase of the Carrier programme, BAE was recruiting 100 apprentices a year.”
The report adds:
“This was important to the industry as it both brought in new entrants and lowered the age profile of the workforce. Furthermore, that throughput of apprentices played a key role in sustaining the appropriate level of skills for the longer-term. By contrast, only 20 apprentices would be recruited in 2016 and Mr McPhee asserted that this was ‘solely because of the decision to move the Type 26 to a later date’.
We are going to recruit 20 this year, and there are steelworkers who started last August who we have now had to switch to other trades. Fortunately, we are keeping them within the business, but in all my time in shipbuilding, I have never known apprentices to start with one trade and then, six months later, have to switch to another one. They were brought in because we thought we would be working on the steelwork for the Type 26. That is the impact on training and young people.”
Michael Fallon told BBC Radio Scotland:
“Nobody is shortchanging the Clyde. This is a huge moment for the Clyde; we’re confirming we’re going ahead with the steel cut next summer, earlier than expected. The first eight will be the Type 26 combat ships. After that, we will be building a lighter frigate and we will end up with a fleet that is larger than the fleet at the moment.”
Responding to earlier speculation that the work could go elsewhere, Fallon dismissed this by saying:
“BAE will be in pole position [for that contract]. They’re the principal warship builder.”
The first of the five new vessels, HMS Forth, is expected to be handed over to the Royal Navy in 2017. The Offshore Patrol Vessels have been ordered to fill a gap in orders after the second carrier and before the Type 26 frigates begin construction.