Today’s (Thursday 1 November) announcement that the Appledore shipyard will close in March with the loss of 199 jobs has been met with ‘anger and dismay’ by Unite the union.

The owner, engineering giant Babcock International, made the announcement, despite a strong campaign by Unite the union and the GMB to save the 163-year-old Devon shipyard.

Unite regional officer Heathcliffe Pettifer said: “The first reaction is one of dismay and anger that such a dedicated workforce at this historic shipyard should face such an uncertain future.

“We feel that the government could have done much more to secure future work for Appledore and that defence secretary Gavin Williamson wrung his hands in true Pontius Pilate fashion when he said it was a commercial decision for the company.

“We are asking for this to be raised as a matter of urgency in the House of Commons.

“As we have said previously, the impact on the Devon economy will be widespread, devastating and enduring with the yard closing. It is a hammer blow for the workforce and the West Country economy.

“Unite’s role in the days and weeks ahead is to give maximum support to our members and their families at what is a very worrying time for them.

“The consultation period starts today (Thursday 1 November) and Unite is committed to providing as many options to our members as possible and I have started this process in my discussions with the shipbuilding director and local HR this morning.

“Babcock has said it will honour a duty of care to the workforce and we will be actively exploring what this may mean for future employment prospects.

“About 140 of the workforce are already on short-term redeployment to its Devonport operations and there may be further opportunities there.”

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “This shameful decision is a betrayal of a skilled loyal workforce and their community. It is a dark day for Appledore and UK shipbuilding. Unite will be engaging immediately with the company to secure and protect jobs - and our members’ interests.

“We will continue to fight for the yard’s future and with it opportunities of decent, unionised work for coming generations and skilled apprenticeships.

“While we press the company to think again, government must wake up to its role in today’s announcement.

“At a stroke, ministers could secure the future of Appledore by lifting the delay to contract the Type 31e frigate programme and guaranteeing that the Royal Navy’s new fleet solid support vessels are designed and block built in yards across the UK.

“A continued failure by ministers to intervene could lead to the loss of vital shipbuilding skills for a generation and leave a yawning capability gap in the UK’s shipbuilding industry.

“We urge Babcock to think again and for the Ministry of Defence to drop its ideological obsession with international competition and build support vessels for our Royal Navy ships in UK ship yards.”

A petition signed by nearly 10,000 people, which had called on the government to secure future shipbuilding work at the threatened Appledore shipyard, was handed in at the House of Commons on Tuesday (30 October).

The situation at Appledore came to a head after the recent loss of a contract to Italian yard Fincantieri.

Last month, Unite said the government’s continual lack of commitment to building ships for the Royal Navy threatens ‘to shipwreck’ the future of Appledore and also the Harland & Wolff yard in Belfast.


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on: 020 3371 2065

  • Unite represents workers in Britain and Ireland with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.