Lost Portsmouth Dockyard jobs ‘replaced by zero hours shop work’

Portsmouth Naval Base
Portsmouth Naval Base

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A union leader says dockyard jobs lost in Portsmouth have been replaced by retail work on zero hours contracts.

The GMB’s Gary Smith made the claim as Labour’s annual conference, which opens in Brighton on Sunday, prepares to debate calls for the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system to be scrapped.

A number of local constituency parties have tabled motions opposing Trident ahead of the conference.

It is understood that some of the motions have been accepted as being “contemporary” and are likely to be debated, giving new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn a chance to set out his position on Trident.

A decision on the future of the Trident nuclear weapons system is due next year, with opponents, including CND, arguing that at a time of public spending cuts, the Government should not be spending billions of pounds on nuclear weapons and over £100 billion on a replacement for Trident.

“It is time to comply with our obligation under international law to accomplish the total elimination of our nuclear arsenal. By doing so we would send a message to the world that spending for peace and development and meeting people’s real needs is our priority, not spending on weapons of mass destruction,” said a spokesman for CND.

The Liberal Democrats’ annual conference has rejected a call to scrap Britain’s nuclear weapons.

The Labour conference is also set to debate the thorny subject of Britain’s relationship with the European Union, with unions warning they will not support continued membership if workers’ rights are watered down in any renegotiation ahead of a referendum.

Mr Smith, the GMB’s acting secretary in Scotland, said: “The 40,000 defence workers in Scotland are as vital to our national security as the armed forces. Without the skills of the workforce in the yards on the Clyde and Rosyth the Royal Navy could not defend the nation.

“It makes no sense to abandon our long-standing overall defence strategy unilaterally for solely political reasons. That goes for Trident and the jobs at Faslane and Barrow.

“The truth is the peace dividend from the fall of the Berlin Wall brought unemployment and poverty to towns like Plymouth. Dockyard jobs in Portsmouth have been replaced by zero hours retail work.

“The Labour Party and the Scottish Government need to get real on jobs. Without defence work there will be no Clyde shipyards and Falmouth would probably face closure. The same goes for Barrow. The real casualties will be the communities if these highly skilled, well paid irreplaceable jobs are given up.”

Kate Hudson, CND general secretary, said: “If selected in the priorities ballot, Trident will be debated at Labour Party conference for the first time for many years. For a long time now, anti-Trident motions have been ruled out of order.

“This is an enormous and urgent opportunity for the Labour Party to have an open debate on Trident, and to bring its policy in line with the needs of the age - and of the British people. If conference decides to scrap Trident, it will also bring party policy in line with the approach of its new leader, who received a huge mandate from party members on an anti-Trident ticket.

“We urge the fullest possible support for the motion in the priorities ballot and on the floor of conference.

“Parliament will decide on whether or not to replace Trident next year - it is vital that Labour stands against these weapons of mass destruction.”