Workers brace for news over future of Portsmouth shipyard

The forward island of HMS Queen Elizabeth is taken out of the BAE Systems shipyard at Portsmouth Naval Base.  Picture: Sam Bannister

The forward island of HMS Queen Elizabeth is taken out of the BAE Systems shipyard at Portsmouth Naval Base. Picture: Sam Bannister

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Hundreds of jobs are feared to be at risk at the BAE Systems shipyard in Portsmouth, ahead of an expected announcement on Thursday.

The News has learned an announcement will be made later this week on the future of Portsmouth’s shipyard.

The shipbuilding firm has been conducting a lengthy review of its operations up and down the country for the last 18 months.

Staff at BAE Systems are now due to be told the result of a lengthy review into shipbuilding operations around the country.

The firm is expected to cut jobs at one or more of its sites around the UK, and city leaders fear the axe is going to fall on Portsmouth.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the leader of Portsmouth City Council, believes the current political situation with Scotland is to blame.

He said: ‘I am extremely worried.

‘It is less than a year until Scotland votes on whether to become independent and we seem to be losing out on so much.

‘The armed forces city was not given to Portsmouth, it was given to Stirling.

‘And the city of culture also went to Scotland and not to Portsmouth.

‘It seems so many things are being given to the Scottish to keep them in the UK and it’s costing jobs in Portsmouth, and that’s not right.’

BAE Systems last night would not confirm or deny if Portsmouth’s shipyard was due to close.

A spokeswoman for BAE Systems Maritime Services, which employs around 1,500 people from Portsmouth and the surrounding area at the city’s naval base, said that when a decision had been made, employees would be informed first.

She said: ‘Discussions are ongoing and are at an advanced stage.

‘We will be making an announcement, but we cannot say when.

‘We need to get an agreement in place first, and we will talk to our employees first.’

Opposition to the closure of Portsmouth’s shipyard has been fierce.

As reported in The News, city leaders fear the Royal Navy would be left without a supplier should Scotland choose independence in the upcoming referendum.

Closure would also result in the loss of many hundreds of jobs.

Both the Scottish and Portsmouth yards are currently tasked with building the two navy’s two new Portsmouth-based aircraft carriers.

But the problem lies in a gap in the firm’s order book once this work is complete.

The next major project on the horizon is the awaited contract for the Type 26 frigates, which is not due to begin until later this decade

As well as shipbuilding, BAE Systems also employs thousands of people to maintain the ships and to develop their electronics and other crucial systems.

It has always been made clear that these jobs are not at risk.

John Ferrett, a negotiations officer for trade union Prospect, who represents workers such as managers, engineers and specialists for BAE Systems at the Portsmouth base, said: ‘There have been rumours for many, many months that there will be a closure or there would be jobs lost and we have just been waiting for that decision to be made.

‘While it’s not a surprise, if it results in jobs being lost in Portsmouth it’s hugely disappointing.

‘The mood has been somewhat pessimistic for the last 18 months.

‘For our members in Portsmouth, given that we are two months away from Christmas, it’s extremely disappointing news and people will have concerns.

‘My role will be to try and mitigate any losses of jobs.

‘We will work with the company to try and make sure as many workers as possible will get jobs within the support sector of the business.’

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