Union in call for clarity amid fears of shipyard closure

BAE workers are under threat
BAE workers are under threat

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BAE Systems is facing calls to come clean over whether it has plans to stop building warships in Portsmouth.

The GMB trade union, the largest union of shipbuilders in the city, said uncertainty surrounding the future of the defence giant’s Portsmouth shipyard operations was making workers anxious.

The company has repeatedly refused to comment on speculation that it’s looking to end 500 years of shipbuilding in Portsmouth.

GMB, which represents 500 city shipbuilders, said it was unacceptable that workers are being kept in the dark over the issue.

Union representative Gary Cook said: ‘Our members are obviously anxious and concerned with BAE which is not coming out and telling them what’s going on.

‘They need to hear that work that’s been scheduled to take place in Portsmouth will stay in Portsmouth.’

City shipbuilders are working on large sections for the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers. The bulk of the steelwork will be completed by 2014, after which nothing is planned. The next potential order, which is for a new fleet of navy frigates, is not due to be signed off by the Ministry of Defence until 2014.

Mr Cook said: ‘No-one expects everything to last forever but we’ve got work until 2014 and what people want to hear right now is the assurance that that work will continue in Portsmouth – but BAE is not giving us that.’

Around 1,500 people are employed by BAE’s shipbuilding division in Portsmouth.

A further 32,000 jobs are created by the dockyard’s supply chain.

As reported in The News yesterday, council leaders have set aside £20,000 for a team of experts to lobby Portsmouth’s case to BAE and the government. Mr Cook said the GMB union welcomed the move.

BAE Systems has said it is conducting a review of its business model, the details of which cannot be discussed.

A spokeswoman said: ‘This work is on-going and we will keep our employees and trade union representatives fully informed, as it progresses.’