Talk of cancellation of defence manufacturing and shipbuilding contracts is causing anxiety for the security of skilled jobs in the industry – 4,000 directly in shipbuilding and over 10,000 in industrial suppliers.
The Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions’ chairman, Jim Moohan, condemned the damage to the industry being caused by the rumours and uncertainty emanating from government statements. He pointed out that the store of skills and their future depends on the current orders – a capability that would be lost, even for possible future non-naval, merchant or passenger projects.
The BAE Systems vessels being built in the £5.2 billion contracts are the largest ever constructed in Britain at 65,000 tonnes and 280 yards long. Construction is taking place at locations throughout Britain, but the major work will be carried out at Rosyth on the River Forth and at Govan and Scotstoun yards on the Clyde. Orders for 80,000 tonnes of steel have already been placed.
Meanwhile, substantial orders forming a major upgrade to the Brazilian navy – mainly for frigates and destroyers – are close to being confirmed as a future source of work for these yards.
The recent turnout of all the workers at the yards at the funeral of one of the leaders of the 1971 work-in at those yards on the Clyde – Jimmy Reid – was a reminder of the approaching 40th anniversary of that historic action. At the time we called for that action to become “not a one-off, but a prototype” and indeed dozens of similar occupations and work-ins took place in the years immediately following. That spirit lies dormant and has to be rekindled.