Britain’s largest defence union, Unite warned UK government ministers against using defence workers as a ‘political football’ and jeopardising jobs as it emerged that a House of Commons vote on the successor to Trident could be deferred until the autumn.
While welcoming today’s (Thursday 3 March) confirmation of the government’s continued investment in the Successor submarine programme, Unite warned that short-term decision making in the defence sector and a failure to decisively support the UK steel industry was undermining the UK’s sovereign defence capability and risking jobs.
Over 50,000 defence jobs have been lost in the last decade, according to the union with analysts predicting that as much as 25p in the pound of UK defence spend could go to US factories by 2020 – over double the current amount of 12p in the pound.
Meanwhile, the British steel industry is fighting for its survival in the face of cheap imports and a failure by ministers to ensure that if it’s built for Britain, it uses British steel. Ministers have recently come under fire for the use of foreign steel in new Royal Navy frigates and major infrastructure projects.
Commenting Ian Waddell Unite national officer for aerospace and shipbuilding said: “Tens of thousands of highly skilled jobs rely directly and indirectly on the Successor submarine programme and other projects across the defence industry.
“The continued commitment by the government to manufacture the next generation of submarines in the UK is a welcome vote of confidence in the skills and expertise of the UK’s defence workers.
“Minsters should be under no illusion though. Our members and their families are growing increasingly frustrated at being used as a political football by the government.
“In the last decade, over 50,000 defence jobs have gone from across the wider defence industry because of short-term decisions made for political purposes. They want cast iron assurances that the defence spend on the Successor programme and other defence projects will remain here in the UK.
“It would be scandalous if by 2020 analysts were proved right and 25 per cent of UK defence spend went to US factories rather than supporting jobs and skills here in the UK.
“Government ministers need to give guarantees that the decisions being taken on defence projects are joined up and that first and foremost they benefit UK jobs and communities.”
Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: “The continued commitment to the Successor programme is a testament to skills and dedication of our members which marks them out as the best engineers and shipbuilders in the world.
“It is good news for Scottish jobs and the communities of Faslane, Coulport and Rosyth, but it marks a bitter sweet few months for Scottish manufacturing with the mothballing of the steel plants at Dalzell and Cambuslang. These plants provided steel for the existing Trident submarines and stand to lose out on the Successor programme because of a lack of decisive action from the Westminster government.
“Steel will be the main component in the manufacture of the new Successor submarines. It would be a national scandal if British steel wasn’t used because of the UK government’s continued failure to act swiftly and decisively to save our steel and pursue an active industrial strategy.”
For further information please contact Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869.
Notes to editors
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.