Unite holds special conference as UK defence industry ...

Unite holds special conference as UK defence industry at a crossroads

11 February 2016

Members of Unite, Britain’s largest union in the defence sector and leading industry figures will be gathering in Preston on Monday 21 March for a special conference to highlight the growing frustrations with the government’s short term political decision-making in the defence sector.

With 50,000 defence jobs lost in the last decade, and major government spending decisions looming, Unite says that the entire industry is at a crossroads – the wrong decisions could see the UK’s skills and capacity to support its own independent national defence programme destroyed.

The union will also be launching its campaign to press the government to keep UK defence spending in Britain as figures reveal that defence firms outside the UK are set to receive more and more of the UK’s defence budget, undermining British jobs and skills. 

Analysts predict that as much as 25 pence in the pound of UK defence spend could be being spent in US factories by 2020 – over double the current amount of 12 pence in the pound. 

Protecting jobs on the Successor submarine programme and Trident will also be on the special conference’s agenda with discussions from the day feeding into Unite’s submission to Labour’s defence review. 

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey will be among the leading figures addressing the conference.

Commenting Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “This sector is at a crossroads. Our members right across the industry – from nuclear, aviation and naval – are demanding to know that the decisions being taken by government are joined up, and that first and foremost they benefit UK jobs and communities.

“We are deeply concerned that this is not the case. There have been far too many short term decisions made for political purposes by this and other governments.

“With 50,000 defence jobs lost in the past 10 years, and major decisions on purchasing and development looming, it is high time that the government stopped using this workforce as a political football.

“Top of our agenda is to ask why UK taxpayers’ money will be used to support US defence jobs at the expense of jobs and communities here.  It is nothing short of a scandal that 12 per cent of our defence budget spending goes to the US now and that this will double in the next four years.

“Spending our defence budget in the UK makes sound economic and defence sense, so we will be pressing the government to set out how it can do this and support Britain’s sovereign defence capability over the long-term.

“This is also an opportunity for our members to feed into Labour’s defence review, and we will be sending the same message to that party: support British defence jobs and communities and protect jobs on the Successor submarine programme and Trident.

“Unite’s defence members can be in no doubt whatsoever. We want answers on the investment in their future and will do everything in our power to protect and preserve their livelihoods.”

Timings and venue for the special conference will be confirmed in the near future. Media wishing to attend should register their interest by emailing


For further information please contact Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869. 

Twitter: @unitetheunion
Facebook: unitetheunion1 

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.