Prospect and GMB officials in Scotland have written a joint open letter to the defence secretary and other politicians warning that the decision to pause the procurement of five new Type 31e frigates is a 'body blow' to Scottish shipbuilding.
The decision was announced late on Tuesday 24 July, just as parliament was breaking up fro summer recess, meaning the government has avoided scrutiny on the issue.
It is rumoured that the MOD has run into trouble because of delays in its Modernising Defence Programme review and conflict between the MOD and the Treasury over the size of the defence budget.
The text of the letter reads:
We are writing jointly as the senior officials of our two unions in Scotland to express our grave concerns for thousands of our members in Scotland at the postponement by the MOD of the procurement process for the Royal Navy’s new Type 31e frigates.
This is a further body blow to many shipbuilding workers and their families on the Clyde and in Fife where we are already seeing significant redundancies as the Carrier programme runs down meaning they will see nothing but a gloomy future ahead.
This blow to military shipbuilding in Scotland comes at a time when commercial yards such as BiFab in Fife and Lewis and others face an increasingly uncertain future, and so are in no position to alleviate job losses in the sector.
The success of either of the two leading consortia in the 31e programme would have secured significant investment for Scottish shipyards, be this on the Clyde from the BAE bid or on the Clyde and at Rosyth from the Babcock bid.
We should not forget either that other yards across the UK, employing many thousands of our members will be equally impacted by this decision.
We have previously had the disappointment of the cancellation of the world class Frigate Factory on the Clyde, the reduction from 13 Type 26 Frigates down to eight then the promise of the other five being replaced with five Type 31es, only for this now to be paused due to insufficient bids and competition despite their being three identified consortia in the bidding process.
We believe that this is simply a smokescreen for the MoD running out of money due to botched privatisations and poorly run procurements in the past.
The renaissance in shipbuilding promised by the National Shipbuilding strategy and the steady drumbeat of orders rhetoric from this Government are proving to be hollow words as far as our members are concerned.
Add to this the ill thought out government decision to put the contract for the three new Fleet Solid Support ships out to international tender and the increasing uncertainty about Brexit, and you can see that for our members in the shipbuilding and steel communities, there is a growing belief that this Government cares little for their futures.
For this news to be released the day before the Westminster recess begins adds insult to injury as our members are denied any parliamentary scrutiny of the decision, and our ability to raise our concerns directly with Ministers is severely curtailed, it all adds up to a poor deal for our members in Scotland and across the UK.
Richard Hardy, Prospect National Secretary Scotland and Ireland
Gary Smith, GMB Regional Secretary Scotland