Emigrate for
a job? The hardest choice
of their lives

Clive Smith says he would not like to arm wrestle athlete Caster Semenya 		Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

CLIVE SMITH: English pigs? Don’t bite the hand that feeds you

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There’s a whiff of the Irish potato famine of the mid-19th century and the mass emigration that followed in what happened in Portsmouth yesterday.

Men and women soon to be without jobs, desperate to provide for their families, considering upping sticks and crossing the Atlantic to earn a living.

There are 940 of them in Portsmouth, all shipbuilders, who will lose their jobs when BAE Systems ends its shipbuilding operation in the city.

They queued up at the Marriott Hotel at North Harbour curious to discover whether life, and employment, across the pond in Canada might just be the ticket.

It would appear there are plenty of shipbuilding jobs in a new shipyard in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Unlike the British government, its Canadian counterpart is investing heavily in its navy.

A total of 23 vessels – Arctic offshore patrol ships, frigates and destroyers – are on the books for the new yard.

And its bosses could think of no better place to turn than the highly-skilled workforce in Portsmouth which will soon be kicking its heels.

Scott Jamieson, who used to work for BAE’s forerunner, BVT Surface Fleet, and who in another twist of irony once lived in Portsmouth, is the vice-president of Irving Shipbuilding.

‘Obviously, with recent announcements here in Portsmouth, it was an obvious place for us to come and talk to the highly-skilled workforce here,’ he said.

But what a choice now facing those workers.

As some of them said, if you are young and have no ties, moving to Canada with work guaranteed for many years, might seem like hitting the jackpot.

But what about the majority of them who will have children settled at school and spouses and extended families to consider?

For them it will be the hardest decision of their lives.

And it is a position which they would never have had to face if the British government had taken a leaf out of the Canadian’s and committed itself to building the next generation of frigates... in Portsmouth.