But now more than a dozen hard-working dockyard staff at Portsmouth Naval Base face being made redundant before Christmas.
Seventeen roles at the military hub are set to be axed by facilities management firm Boden – little more than a month after the company took over a key contract at the base.
Almost half of the 46-strong workforce, taken on by Boden following the Future Maritime Support Programme (FMSP) deal, will be axed by December 1.
Among those in the firing line include an array of skilled electrical engineers, with only 17 positions set to remain out of the current 31.
While the management team will be slashed from 13 to 10, with remaining staff expected to compete for the leftover jobs.
Sources on the naval base said staff morale slumped to an ‘all-time low’ after workers were informed of the ‘hammer blow’ news on Monday.
One dockyard source told The News: ‘It's all very messy. There are a lot of good, hard-working people who have worked here for years, and most recently all through the pandemic, that have now been lied to from the start of this new contract, and will lose their job right before Christmas time.’
Another worker added: ‘Morale in the area I work in has plummeted to an all-time low. We are having to apply for the same job and possibly at a lower wage.’
Boden was awarded the facilities management contract by KBS Maritime – a joint venture between firms KBR and BAE Systems – in September.
The new arrangement, which came into force on October 1, was part of a five-year deal worth £1.3bn to provide ship maintenance services and facilities management at the base.
But Portsmouth South MP and shadow armed forces minister, Stephen Morgan, said Labour had always been worried about the deal and its impact on jobs.
He added: ‘This is very sad news and it is particularly frustrating to see highly skilled workers at risk of redundancy in the home and heart of the Royal Navy.
‘Labour has long-warned the MoD that splitting up service contacts at naval bases in Portsmouth and across the country risks creating a race to the bottom on standards, working conditions and jobs that are indispensable for day-to-day defence and security operations.’
Cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP, said her team was ‘on standby’ to provide help to any workers who lose their jobs.
The former defence secretary said: ‘It is vital that we retain skills in the services needed to run the dockyard. I understand there are some proposed new changes to how contracts are delivered, that voluntary redundancies are being sought in the first instance and there will be 27 new roles to fill.
‘These processes are always a concerning time and my team stands ready to help individuals in any way we can.’
Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson insisted the city valued the skilled workers at the dockyard and was confident those made redundant would be able to find new work soon.
He said: ‘Skilled electricians will be snapped up in jobs around the whole of the city because they’re incredible.’
KBS Maritime confirmed Boden has launched a ‘consultation process’ with union bosses and employees.
The alliance insisted the FMSP would provide ‘significant opportunities for future development’ of the naval base over the next decade.
A spokeswoman added: ‘We all remain committed to supporting colleagues through this period. To successfully deliver on contract requirements under FMSP, KBS Maritime has committed to transforming the way in which naval base asset management and operational services are delivered.
‘This includes the implementation of new systems and working practices to improve safety, efficiency and operational outputs.’
The News approached Boden for comment.