GMB, the shipbuilding union, has reacted to 150 proposed job losses at Babcock Rosyth.

The union cited the run down of the Prince of Wales contract and uncertainty around future workload, for example the Type 31 FSS contract, as reasons for the job losses.

Ross Murdoch, GMB National Officer and CSEU National Chair of Shipbuilding:

“Once again we are paying the price for the Government’s betrayal of UK shipbuilding.

Rather than ensure a steady drumbeat of shipbuilding orders that keep the industry alive, the Conservatives seem content to let UK shipbuilding die out in the name of the free market.

Appledore is on the brink of closure, Cammell Laird is slashing jobs and now this. When will the Government step in to save our centuries old shipbuilding heritage.”

The Unite union said the news was a “kick in the teeth”. Steve Turner, the union’s assistant general secretary for manufacturing, said:

“The men and women whose skills built the UK’s two new world-leading aircraft carriers at Rosyth are at risk of being lost for a generation in a blow to the Scottish economy and UK shipbuilding.”

48 COMMENTS

    • The type 31 and FSS contracts aren’t due to be awarded until 2020 as I understand, there’s no final design for either ship. The T31 is a relatively new concept and only exists because we reduced some Type 26s which would have been built on the Clyde. Why can’t Babcock win some commercial contracts? If you’re only going to rely on one customer then feast or famine is inevitable. If you read the NSS its does not say that the government should be the only customer of a yard, the strategy is for yards to win other work. Sir John Parker report actually states that yards that do commercial work are more competitive. Babcock have had the carriers, stable work for many years that should have allowed them to invest to win orders. My bet would be even if you brought the SSS forward and placed the contract with Babcock at 2x the international price once completed the yard will have not won any further work and unions will be make the same statements expecting another government contract and what if there’s nothing to build at that point, the unions expect the MoD magic up an order.

      • There is no longer any forward planning. To allow this workforce to disperse is to evaporate excellence that has built up during the QE Class build. The truth, no one gives a fig from the MOD to investment banks about British shipbuilding. They talk a lot about future planning but it’s simply words without substance. The Tide Class aren’t warships, so they can be built abroad. The logic is beyond fiction, nevertheless, it’s still a betrail of UK industry.

          • I don’t see the nationality being an issue necessarily, as they still represent a workforce worth keeping. At the end of the day retaining excellence and building ships in Britain, is a winning formula.

          • Maurice 10,I have nothing against the foreign guys most not all mind you are decent guys but tell that to a British worker who hasn’t had a decent pay rise in 10 years because of companies like Babcocks paying sub contract foreign workers below the going rate

      • Appledore had the chance of building the new Scilly isles ferry but Babcocks have refused to tender for it because they say they won’t make a profit,all they have to do is move the goal posts like they do with the type 23 frigate refits.

      • Interestingly, in Babcock’s case, I believe a lack of commercial shipbuilding may be a case of being selective in the scope of what they undertake. They seem to be quite successful as a diversified company focused on maintenance, service and support with £4.5B in 2017 revenue, 34,000 employees WW and quite profitable with significant growth over the last 8 years, so perhaps they are not interested in significantly expanding into lower margin, low differentiation shipbuilding. BTW, most of those employees are probably in the UK, given 75% of their business is in the UK.

        Compare to Damen, a private family owned business with 2 billion EUR 2017 revenue and 12,000 employees of which 3,500 in the Netherlands. Damen have an exceptional portfolio of ships across many different markets and seem to be an excellent example of best practice shipbuilding. But how much would Babcock have to invest to grow such a business organically? Even if Babcock acquired companies, would they end up diluting their margins by focusing more on shipbuilding? We shouldn’t criticize Babcock for focusing on defensible, profitable markets and perhaps generating more, higher paying value added jobs as a result.

    • i find it annoying that scotland expects to get major shipbuilding contracts, securing, jobs, income and long term stability, nothing wrong with that but it comes at the expense of other yards around the u.k
      there never seems any urgency to deliver, in fact the production rate is slow compared to similar contracts worldwide the clyde needs to be told that taking orders for granted, will, in the long run lead to contracts going elsewhere portsmouth, in the days of the hand bashed rivet, built the worlds first battleship in under a calendar year, with modern methods and equipment, the clyde should be under no doubt that two ships per year,should be completed, especially when, and if the type 31 ever actually happens, a plan which, i fear, may not even happen, given whats been said so far, a game of smoke and mirrors is in hand, the t31 has been left newsless for months, if, the ship IS going to happen, the details would, in an ideal world,divulged somewhat. the silence on the t31 is deafening. maybe ukdj could glean something on the subject, but the longer the silence goes on, i think the 31, like the 26 will remain on the back of a fag packet for years yet.

  1. “Once again we are paying the price for the Governments Betrayal of UK Shipbuilding”

    Well It Could be Worse, You should see what It’s like in England !!!!!

    • Yes its pretty bad down south, couldn’t get a latte from Mc Donalds this morning! Bloody machine broken, what is the world coming to!

      On a serious note, I truly don’t get the way the governments, not just this one, can’t get their act together on this.

  2. Its the fault of the ignorant people in power. People like ‘living dead’ Hammond and the ‘virtual people’ at the MOD. I think its extraordinarily stupid to dogmatically apply free market economics in matters of national security.
    The FSS should be built in the UK.

  3. Since when is it the governments job to provide work to private businesses ? Businesses who’s shareholders have undoubtedly done well out of recent government contracts. It’s the management’s job to ensure a steady flow of work, not just from UK plc but by being competitive globally. Companies get fat and lazy when they have government work available then complain when the work dries up.

    How many international tenders have they gone for recently ? If they didn’t get the work do they even know why ? Probably overpriced commercial tenders because they are so used to sucking on the tax payers teats.

    • David, Private Businesses tend to find work due to their determination to Survive all the Efforts of the Government who are hell bent on trying to destroy them. ( Well, that’s the stark fact If you are a Small Business Owner).

      In My Experience.

      I could go on a long and Intense Rant but It’s Friday. Only one more day to work, then I’ll get a day off.

      Unless some Government Twat invents a new Law.

      Every Large Business probably started out as a Small one. BAE Is one such Example.

      • Surely Bae started out as a whole series of small businesses.

        Sadly whatever I think of the Governments attitude to ship building it was the unions more than anyone who led to its decline and fall. Up to 12 unions involved in separate negotiations when the Japanese only worked with a single one for all trades and each of those trade unions in the UK ran on a deeply unpleasant class system akin to the Indian caste system and no agreement could be made with one re wages without triggering the others demanding to keep their long standing pay differentials. No industry could survive that sadly and various Goverments have, as with the car industry of course been happy to apply their own top layer of incompetence and knife throwing… Well at least till we lost Sheffield steel anyway.

        Sadly the inability to compete though goes back to that very entrenched ‘history’ that the Union bod refers to, methods and practices remained unchanged as others simply moved into the modern world with modern ideas and methodology in both terms of the work and the workforce. Time things changed it was really too late fight back. How many industries can we say that about ie bad owners, bad unions with inevitable bad competitiveness. No one was willing or able to change till it was too late.

        By the way those northern and Scottish yards 100 years back were more than happy to destroy shipbuilding on the Thames by exploiting suspect business tactics and creating a cartel to exclude others from access to the precious metals vital to the whole process of building ships competitively, despite the arguably superior quality of the ships being built, many of which were built for Japan ironically. What went around came around some 50 years later I guess.

        • I will add to that that full order books through the 40s, 50s. and early 60s lead to complacency in management too. Plus there was little time to modernise. Another factor over looked is that the geography of the UK does us no favours when it comes to modern ships dues to their size.

        • Spy, Yes, But you get my point. All the Original Defence Companies have been “Assimilated” into a few Large ones. for various reasons.

    • No union has ever called for action because the R and D budget was cut or pace of modernisation was not fast enough. But when work dries up it nothing to do with them.

    • I have stated this before Babcocks for all their pretence of being a private company are not they rely on the government for the majority of their work,the ethos seems to be more on promoting social justice and employment of frankly useless graduates than actual engineering and is slowly but surely dragging the company down.

  4. would an option be for government to buy 2 large and 1 smaller yard, and run them in public ownership. Government would invest in each with the latest equipment and some automation to drive production economies and make them competitive against the rest of the world. Ship building would be split into small boats (cutters, minehunters, Rhibs etc), medium (patrol ships up to destroyer size), and larger ships over 10,000 tonnes. Each would get a yard to suit the scale of vessel but additional construction halls and docks at each site would be built for redundancy.
    A ship building strategy based on a 20-25 year cycle is then created for each of the three scales of vessel that allow for continuous building, and design companies are invited to tender designs for each ship type, but government runs the build process and gets this element at cost price and is run by proven industry experts. Using this method, more competition is created as smaller design companies without affiliation to shipyards could bid driving up innovation in the design element.
    Having government owned yards would tie them into continuous building to maintain the work flow, thus we get a steady stream of the ships we need on time, and no wasteful delays or capability gaps. The steady stream of work combined with the investment in the yards are likely to enable us to compete globally, and we would end up building for others in the spare capacity built into the yards at the beginning. This would be a bonus but not essential. The spare capacity could also be leased to private firms to build other types of vessels or it could be used for refit and maintainance of existing ships.
    Just need a strong Government willing to do the same what’s right for the industry and our defence in the long term. I know some of you will have dark memories of public ownership, but if we can learn the lessons from mistakes made, I personally think it could and should be a success.

    • Government run companies seem to have a high management to productive worker ratio, managers seemed to have lots of meetings without resolving problems. Many posts should have been combined as in outside industry so the manager has full days work. The civil service rule book often hampered good practice and it was hard to get rid of poor managers; often they were shuffled about in different posts. Improvement schemes involved having lots of meetings, charts, outside consultants with religious like zeal. However they failed to solve production issues or parts which were often easy to obtain in the real world. The approved supplier system drives up costs delays delivery times, if a part meets the quality standard that should be enough. On the rare case a management job was no longer needed they created a new post for the person out the magic hat!

        • Robert the NHS actually has really good ratios of managers to workforce. It’s also regarded as just about the most efficient health service anywhere.

          It has issues, mainly around lack of capital investment, poor strategic management of workforce (why invest in training when you can rob a third or second world country of it’s qualified workforce) and political dabbling, but it’s as good as anything out there for the money we are willing to spend. Hyundai money gets you a Hyundai, it’s a good car, you can,t then expect it to be the same level of car as a BMW.

          • Of course in Germany as in Australia if you earn over a certain level you have to pay extra dedicated health insurance even if it remains free at the point of use. I just can’t see that being acceptable to the public here. I am not saying it isn’t but I can’t say I have heard anyone claim ours is the most efficient health service wish someone would explain and boast indeed about it if it is genuinely so. Indeed I can never understand why despite being one of the top overall employers in Europe and the biggest health service employer it’s not providing for the actual biggest population, and struggling to do so even with those numbers. Not making a judgement on it but wonder why no one has attempted to properly explain what on the surface seem contradictions and anomalies. Be nice to hear the reality over the politics for a change.

          • If you want a good basic read, the commonwealthfund.org mirror mirror on the wall studies are very comprehensive and look at a wide aspect of quality, access, fairness and cost effectiveness of western health systems.

            In regards to numbers of staff other nations do not collect all the staff figures together and say look our huge oversized NHS it employs over a million people, which is what we do in the UK. Most sane nations don’t actually whinge about how many people are employed in health and social care.

            I will not compare against the US system as that system is just a crime against its population and taxpayers.

            But if you take Germany, about 4.4 million people work in its healthcare system or over 10% of its workforce. Budget is about 11.6 of its GDP.

            If you take the UK we employ 1.2 million in the NHS 1.1 million in adult social care and 56k in the private sector for about 2.3 million people or just less than 10% of the workforce. At its height the UK healthcare budget was 8.8% GDP but has been steadily falling since 2013.

            Our big problem is in qualified staff as we have less qualified staff (of all types, other thanmidwifes) per population size compared to other western nation. We as an example have 0ne Dr for every 350 people Germany has one for every 250 people. We also have massive vacancy rates of around 100,000 posts.

            So 2.3 million employed in healthcare the UK for a population of around 65 million vs 4.4 million in German for a population of 80 million. to top it off our life expectancy is .2 of a year higher than Germany,our gross % death rate is lower as well and we have a higher birth rate….so yes it’s what the politicians and papers say the NHS is just one big inefficiency.

            Unfortunately there is a simple truth the political classes do not want to be responcible for healthcare as it could be removed from the books and there responsibility and the is a lot of money to be made if it’s opened up, this is where the constant “NHS is not fit for purpose” dialogue comes from.But getting rid of the NHS system of tax funded free at the point of delivery, managed complex system. Would cost big, The us government pays more to its health system as a top up that just gives the poorest basic emergency care, than we do for our whole system ( Birth to death, acute, chronic, preventative) covering 100% of our population. we to could easy pay 16% GDP in stead of 8% GDP if we went for a free market health system.

      • Spot on Peter, absolutely spot on. Anything run by Gov or Council is an utter shambles for the exact reasons you stated.

        We were discussing if the moon landings were faked, never in a million years, could a government do such a bang on job!

        • Really look at the NHS compared to peer nations health systems, money spent per person, workforce (numbers of staff) management costs etc, dig and you will find some assumptions are just that. If the NHS was a private company, I’d be well off and this nation would have needed to have found an few extra of 100s of billions over the last half century.

          Hell go total free market like the states, I’d earn 3 times what i have done and the entire population of the UK would need to find an extra 5-6 thousand pounds per year for their whole life. Yes the US health system spends around £400,000 more on healthcare in a persons lifetime on healthcare costs than we do, and it’s not even very good care in a lot of cases.

          Every American and other foreign person I’ve ever treated has been complementary of the NHS. It’s the Brits who bitch because they have no real understanding of the cost of healthcare. How many times have I heard, if Tesco can do it why can’t you…answer: cus you can’t afford what it really costs to do well and Tesco sell beans they don’t keep the most complex machine on the planet alive and physically, mentally and socially well using the most complex system ever devised by man.

          • The US is a weird one they spend more per person on healthcare yet they die on average younger than any other western country. Clearly there is a big inefficiency or inequity there somewhere.

          • I have used European healthcare and I would never give up the American system for it.
            For several reasons:
            1. Better quality of care in especially of cancer and heart disease.
            2. Never having to wait to go to the doctor or for a surgery ever.
            3. Being able to pick my doctor.
            4. The fact a doctor can never override MY decisions over my children and have them unplugged from a machine or put them on medication I believe harmful.
            5. Not having to share a hospital room is wonderful and keeps you from getting sick in the hospital. All American hospitals have private rooms unlike many Europeans ones where you are still two or even three to a room.
            6. Contrary to popular belief we do have healthcare for the poor and old it is called Medicaid and Medicare.
            As for the US average Death age? That is complicated by several factors. First being that those in cities and suburbs live longer on average and those in the country are farther from the ER so are more likely to die from a accident that would have been survivable had the patient arrived sooner. Second the disparity in average lifespans between ethnic groups (Asians live the longest and Africans the shortest). Third a higher incidence of suicide. Four recently the opioid crisis has hit the US harder than Europe.
            As for iniquity? If you can’t care for YOURSELF or YOUR wife and children, get a job and work hard. Stop whining and asking for charity. Honestly how anyone can call themselves a man and live on Government handouts!

  5. Unfortunately, the rot set in the 1970’s when RN designs ceased to interest foreign buyers, and it was much easier for nationalized British Shipbuilders and later BAE Systems to just overcharge the MOD than have the hassle of winning foreign customers and then trying to keep them happy. I doubt if BAE Systems Maritime would even bother asking Brunei, Oman or Trinidad & Tobago for a reference!

    The UK still isn’t even trying to play catch-up with German, French, Italian and Spain shipyards as BAES and Babcock are not marketing any “Build in the UK” designs for export, Vosper’s are long gone, and Appledore is closing.

    I’m trying to work out what the Type 26 Australia and Canadian wins mean in practice for UK industry, I fear very little beyond BAES receiving royalty payments for a design already paid for by the MOD. Maybe the Type 31e will mark a turning point, but I don’t have high hopes. BAE’s Clyde yards have loads of spare capacity at the moment, why isn’t that being used for a private build T31e demonstrator? It doesn’t have to be fully equipped, it just has to look impressive in grey paint and host boozy receptions at DSEI and other trade shows. Okay, there may be a loss when it’s eventually sold on to Brazil(!), but nothing ventured nothing gained.

  6. Unfortunately, the rot set in the 1970’s when RN designs ceased to interest foreign buyers, and it was much easier for nationalized British Shipbuilders and later BAE Systems to just overcharge the MOD than have the hassle of winning foreign customers and then trying to keep them happy. I doubt if BAE Systems Maritime would even bother asking Brunei, Oman or Trinidad & Tobago for a reference!

    The UK still isn’t even trying to play catch-up with German, French, Italian and Spain shipyards as BAES and Babcock are not marketing any “Built in the UK” designs for export, Vosper’s are long gone, and Appledore is closing.

    I’m trying to work out what the Type 26 Australia and Canadian wins mean in practice for UK industry, I fear very little beyond BAES receiving royalty payments for a design already paid for by the MOD. Maybe the Type 31e will mark a turning point, but I don’t have high hopes. BAE’s Clyde yards have loads of spare capacity at the moment, why isn’t that being used for a private build T31e demonstrator? It doesn’t have to be fully equipped, it just has to look impressive in grey paint and host boozy receptions at DSEI and other trade shows. Okay, there may be a loss when it’s eventually sold on to Brazil(!), but nothing ventured nothing gained.

  7. Blame the treasury for the feast and famine approach to ordering ships.
    We could have had 15 type 26 for 9 billion if the treasury have agreed a build rate of 1 every four years in stead of 1 every 7 years .
    And I can guarantee that we only get 6 in the end .
    It is a little known fact that type 45 cost so much because the treasury stretched the build times and a political decision to use the Aster rather than the proven USN system pushed up the cost leading to the reduction in hull numbers.

    The treasury has a lot to answer for.

  8. I understand Treasury is talking about yearly budget. As a cash flow, what is important is NOT total, but yearly budget.

    As this is well known issue (to at least MOD), it is MODs responsibility to plan balancing it, not Treasury. As I understand, Treasury gave all the money they promised for T45 and CVF. No cut. They are honest.

    Who must be blamed is primary MOD, not Treasury.

    • Actually the treasury cut the funding for the type 45 class 3 times , the build was reduced to 10 then 8 and finally 6 .
      The MoD is not totally blameless in this but the treasury is the main culprit.

      • I understood no cut in money. If my memory works, Treasury provided the 6Bn GBP as planned, even added 600mn more. Reduction in hull number is just because of increased development cost of Sea Venom?

      • I understand Treasurey never cut the budget.

        Only the development cost and per-ship cost has risen, and no “additional” fund was allocated. This was the reason of decrease in hull number. Completely internal of MOD/RN. No Treasury was not kind (no big add of money), but yes Treasury was completely honest (payed the money they agreed to pay).

        This is my understanding.

  9. Maybe another part of the equation is our desire for Gold standard in most things we do, it seems to be built into our mentality from the days when we lead the world. Reality is our budget doesn’t allow for it, and like other nations accept, they opt for a silver standard and therefore get more for there money. Would we rather have one world class billion pound destroyer, or two £5-600 million destroyers that are still highly capable and effective? If each design has redundancy built in from the start, they can always be upgraded to Gold standard if war looms, silver standard should be more than adequate for peace time, gives us extra hulls, and the capabilities lost surely would be ‘nice to have’ not essential. Maybe if we can accept our slightly diminished place in the world, it would actually strengthen our military, not weaken.
    The extra hull numbers afforded would then create a more steady stream of work for the yards and help end the stop start production we end up with.

  10. Babcock clearly want to run down its permanent workforce at Rosyth and concentrate on management ,only hiring and firing workers as workload demands. They want skilled tradesmen to re-locate to Devonport and Faslane where they have plenty of work and not enough skilled labour to do it, But who in an ageing workforce would want to do that.
    Babcock would then bring in workers from abroad on short term contracts, The writing has been on the wall about this for years. Hence the reason that very few apprentices have been taken on in recent years

  11. Welcome to a country run by assholes,ie Tories ,scum that is what they are run down the armed forces ,invest in Portsmouth oh brilliant but Scotland shat upon as usual ,one day revenge will be sweet,quicker we are independent the better,build our own ships and better joining a euro navy than tunnel vision little Englenders English royal navy ,ram it up your arses ,I would welcome German French and other European navies to rosyth to use as a base

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