FURIOUS unions attempting to keep shipbuilding in Portsmouth say they feel snubbed after being denied a meeting with the government over the issue.
The Prospect union asked defence minister Philip Hammond in a letter to meet with bosses and consider adopting a ‘three-yard solution’ that would keep shipbuilding in Portsmouth as well as on the Clyde, in Scotland.
But defence equipment minister Philip Dunne responded instead and said work was still moving out of the city – which puts 940 jobs at risk – and a meeting was not ‘beneficial’ at this stage.
His reason was that the Ministry of Defence has been assured by BAE Systems that ‘every effort’ will be made to redeploy affected workers and keep compulsory redundancies to a minimum.
And an MoD spokeswoman told The News that it was in the union’s best interests to not pursue a ministerial visit and continue talking to BAE instead as it was the one that made the decision to alter shipbuilding arrangements.
John Ferrett, Prospect’s negotiations officer who wrote the letter, said: ‘It is extremely disappointing that the government is not prepared to intervene and support a solution that retains shipbuilding in Portsmouth.
‘The Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, of which Prospect is part, fully support a three-yard solution that retains naval shipbuilding in both Portsmouth and on the Clyde.
‘It is also concerning that the defence secretary has not been able to respond in person, given the gravity of the decision taken by his government.
‘Furthermore, the refusal of ministers to meet representatives of the 1,000 workers losing their jobs is disrespectful, given the service our members have performed over many years in building ships for the Royal Navy.’
Mr Dunne, who said he replied because it came under his portfolio, also ruled out the possibility of any of the three Ocean Patrol Vessels being built in Portsmouth, saying there were ‘clear business benefits’ in the defence giant’s decision to make them in Scotland.
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council, said business secretary Vince Cable had offered to visit, and while that’s positive, it’s not within his remit to influence the MoD.
‘It’s incredibly frustrating, we just have to keep on going,’ he said.
‘But if people won’t listen, then they won’t listen, and I wonder why ministers have kept closed-minded on this.’