Minister dismisses union proposals on shipbuilding work

BAE Systems at HMS Nelson, Portsmouth
BAE Systems at HMS Nelson, Portsmouth
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ATTEMPTS to find extra work for shipbuilders in Portsmouth in a bid to save skills have been dismissed by defence minister Philip Dunne.

Unions met the MP when he visited the city earlier this month, and put forward ideas in order to buy the city more time to mitigate job losses from the BAE Systems shipyard.

The minister went away to consider the options, but has now written to union leaders to say they will not be possible.

Unions hoped work could be brought forward on some warship refitting, work could be found on the now-decommissioned Type 42 destroyers, or extra work on the Royal Navy’s new carriers could be made.

John Ferrett, Prospect union negotiator, said: ‘Prospect is disappointed the government has once again declined to take action that would help retain key skills in Portsmouth Naval Base.

‘While accepting BAE Systems are a private business, the government should not be standing aside at a time like this.

‘Intervention is needed to ensure Portsmouth Naval Base retains as many skilled workers as possible, not least given future workload once the carriers are based in the city.

‘Furthermore, the union remains concerned about the outcome of the Scottish Referendum.

‘Indeed, with the polls showing a significant increase in those proposing to vote for independence, the closure of Portsmouth could be catastrophic for the future of shipbuilding in the UK.’

BAE Systems announced in November last year it would be shutting down its shipbuilding arm in the city.

In a letter to Hugh Scullion, the general secretary of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, Mr Dunne said: ‘I should like to acknowledge the impact on those affected by the decision to cease shipbuilding in Portsmouth.

‘We have seen the strength of feeling expressed in the large number of trade union members who have written to the Secretary of State for Defence on the issue.

‘The government is committed to working with the people of Portsmouth to mitigate the impact.’

Mr Dunne added he has encouraged the minister for Portsmouth, Michael Fallon, to meet unions.

He said he expected BAE Systems to routinely undertake ‘fleet time’ engineering works on warships based in Portsmouth, and some upkeep work.