Ship building to stop in Portsmouth - 940 jobs axed

AT RISK 940 jobs at BAE in Portsmouth
AT RISK 940 jobs at BAE in Portsmouth
The carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth

Minor repair is made to supercarrier HMS Queen Elizabeth

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Defence giant BAE Systems has announced it will be closing down its ship building operation in Portsmouth Naval Base.

All shipbuilding will stop in the second half of next year, the defence firm announced this morning, with some of the remaining work on the second of its Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, due to be carried out in Portsmouth, moving to Glasgow.

Workers were told this morning.

One shipbuilder James Jackson, 45, said: ‘I think it’s absolutely disgusting, they have kept us in the dark for so long.

‘They haven’t given us a closing date for when the consultation is going to finish. It’s all up in the air.

‘I think it’s political. I think most of the Scottish workers are going to be fine.

‘They didn’t want to take any questions. They don’t want to tell us what’s going on.’

Others said that BAE’s decision to close its shipbuilding operation in Portsmouth was ‘disgraceful’.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said more than £100m will be invested into Portsmouth Naval Base as a result of the announcement.

But he added that job losses in Portsmouth ‘inevitable’.

Steve Murphy, general secretary of construction workers union Ucatt, said: ‘Once again workers have found out that their jobs are under threat through the media. It is highly distressing and extremely unfair to treat a loyal workforce in such a way.

‘This is a highly skilled workforce, so it is absolutely essential that the Government and BAE Systems minimises job losses, guarantees the long-term future of all the shipyards and continues to invest in training the workers of the future.’

Ian Waddell, Unite union’s officer for aerospace and shipbuilding, said: ‘It’s obviously a devastating blow for people. It’s always difficult to receive news of this nature and I’m sure people will be going home and reflecting on a very sad day.

‘But it’s part of a much wider picture. We have been working along with BAE Systems and the government for a period of time now to try and work out the best solution for the future .’

Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock has described losing shipbuilding in Portsmouth is a ‘tragedy’.

While the leader of Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson condemned the decision to shut down the last remaining shipyard in England.

BAE said it will consult with its staff over a number of key points.

The statement said: ‘Following detailed discussions about how best to sustain the long-term capability to deliver complex warships, BAE Systems has agreed with the UK Ministry of Defence that Glasgow would be the most effective location for the manufacture of the future Type 26 ships.

‘Consequently, and subject to consultation with trade union representatives, the company proposes to consolidate its shipbuilding operations in Glasgow with investments in facilities to create a world-class capability, positioning it to deliver an affordable Type 26 programme for the Royal Navy.

‘Under these proposals, shipbuilding operations at Portsmouth will cease in the second half of 2014. Subject to consultation, Lower Block 05 and Upper Blocks 07 and 14 of the second Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier will be allocated to Glasgow.

‘The company remains committed to continued investment in the Portsmouth area as the centre of its maritime services and high-end naval equipment and combat systems business.

‘Consultation will commence on a total employee reduction of 1,775 that is expected to result from these restructuring proposals, including 940 in Portsmouth in 2014 and 835 across Filton, Glasgow and Rosyth, progressively through to 2016.’

Prime Minister David Cameron dismissed the impact of closure of Portsmouth’s shipyard.

It has also been revealed BAE Systems will build three Ocean Patrol Vessels - campaigned for by Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt to fill the city’s own order book – but these will now be built in Glasgow.

However Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael has said Portsmouth would be ‘well placed’ to build the frigates if Scotland votes for independence.

After the proposed reductions announced today, BAE Systems will still employ approximately 3,200 people across its sites at HM Naval Base Portsmouth, Portsdown Hill, Broad Oak, Cowes, and HMS Collingwood.

Portsmouth-based engineers will be retained to support the design and development of the Type 26 frigate programme.

The company’s Maritime Services business, based in Portsmouth, manages the running of HM Naval Base on behalf of the Ministry of Defence.

The Queen Elizabeth Class carriers are expected to be based in the Portsmouth from 2017.

The business also provides support services to the Royal Navy’s Portsmouth flotilla, including the six Type 45 destroyers, which accounts for around 50 per cent of the surface fleet.’

Councillor Sean Woodward, Hampshire County Council executive member for economy, transport and environment, said he would support the government providing a big financial package to the city because of BAE’s decision to pull shipbuilding out of Portsmouth.

Hampshire Chamber of Commerce has described the situation as ‘devastating news for Portsmouth’.

Meanwhile a Facebook campaign has been launched to save Portsmouth shipbuilding.