A LABOUR union with a base in Fareham has slammed government plans to offer out international contracts to build ships to support HMS Queen Elizabeth.
GMB has said ministers must reverse their decision to push out a £1bn order for three new military ships out to non-UK bidders.
New Fleet Solid Support ships are needed to service the Royal Navy’s new £6.3bn flagship and its strikeforce of new F-35 fighter planes.
But the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said the order to build the vessels will go out to full international tender on April 30, 2018 – opening the floor to offers from shipyards in countries including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, South Korea and Spain – whose representatives recently attended an MoD industry day on the Fleet Solid Support order, according to documents obtained by GMB under the Freedom of Information Act.
Ross Murdoch is the national officer for shipbuilding at GMB, which has a regional base in Whittle Avenue.
On behalf of the union, he has likened the outbound contracts to the recent ‘fiasco’ among UK and non-UK firms to produce the recently-unveiled, post-Brexit blue passports.
He said: ‘There really can be no excuse for sending our shipbuilding contracts overseas.
‘We have a highly skilled shipbuilding workforce in the UK that is more than capable of making these ships at a fair market price.
‘At a time when global tensions are rising, the government should use this order to ‘buy for Britain’ and rebuild our defence shipbuilding manufacturing capabilities.
‘It would be a gross betrayal of the spirit of the ‘red, white and blue Brexit’ that Theresa May promised if this crucial contract is awarded outside of the UK and jobs here are lost as a result.’
Research from GMB published yesterday predicts up to 6,700 jobs could be created or secured if the order went to a UK shipbuilder – including 1,800 shipyard jobs.
The last contract that went overseas was the Mars Tide Class tanker order – awarded to South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering in 2012 – which the union said has been hit by cost overruns and delays.
The debacle surrounding this new order comes after shipbuilding in Portsmouth ended in 2014, after BAE Systems cut more than 1,000 yard jobs.