UNIONS remain sceptical about the future of Portsmouth’s shipyard despite assurances shipbuilders are in the running to take it over.
Minister for Portsmouth Matthew Hancock has revealed the government has shortlisted three offers for the yard and among them are ones from firms wanting to construct vessels.
But John Ferrett, negotiations officer for The Prospect Union, which represents dockyard workers, says it is more warm words from the government and there is not enough evidence showing the yard’s future is safe.
He questioned whether shipbuilding could happen given there is no longer a proper workforce at the yard and most skilled workers have gone elsewhere.
‘It’s warm words until we see some actual evidence,’ he said.
‘There is no-one left there from the shipbuilding operation. It has closed, the workforce has scattered.
‘They have either taken redundancy, taken retirement or got work somewhere else.
‘There is no-one there who can take on these roles.
‘So whoever comes in will have to have an already-made workforce and that will be difficult – so we are sceptical.’
BAE Systems announced last November it was transferring its shipbuilding division from Portsmouth to the Clyde, in Scotland, putting hundreds of jobs at risk.
Mr Hancock said the identities of bidders cannot be revealed due to commercial confidentiality.
But Gary Cook, GMB regional organiser, questioned why none of the shipbuilders had not even wanted to meet with unions in private.
‘If it is indeed the case that shipbuilding offers are being considered and it is not weasel words – then why hasn’t the shipbuilders spoken to the unions to see what workforce is available, who wants to come back and what the terms and conditions are?’ he said.
‘There are so many questions unanswered. Who are these bidders, where are they and when are they going to meet us?’
Portsmouth is also one of three sites being considered for a new composite manufacturing site, which could be set up at the yard. The move would create hundreds of jobs.