Unite, the UK’s leading union, which represents thousands of members in the defence industry, has called on the government to ensure that there is strategic investment in UK jobs, research and development as well as manufacturing, following the publication today (Tuesday 16 March) of the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy.

 Defence of economy

Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing Steve Turner said: “The defence of the nation must be linked with the defence of our national economy and the retention of the UK’s ability and freedom to operate independently, whether on land, at sea, in the air or online. 

“Meeting the growing challenges from cyber and digital disruption while utilising improving technologies in the field of autonomous platforms require investment in people as well as software.

“The government’s integrated defence review must be linked to strategic investment in UK jobs and the retention of skills and knowledge as well as supporting research, design and UK manufacturing of equipment.

“The review, which is attempting to refocus the UK’s position in global affairs, also needs to urgently assess and improve how defence procurement is undertaken.

 “Concerns about ensuring the security of cutting edge defence equipment can best be ensured by developing the technology alongside design and engineering excellence here in the UK, supported by a strong and resilient manufacturing base.

 “The UK already has the skills, capabilities and the ambition to be developing the cutting edge technology that the UK needs to meet both today's and future challenges. The only thing holding it back is a lack of vision, ambition and support from government.”

Project delays

Unite is concerned that there are a large number of shovel ready defence contracts, which have been delayed, threatening the future of UK jobs and skills.

This includes the order of three fleet solid support ships (FSS), which are crucial for the smooth operation of the Royal Navy. Unite believes that the procurement process for these ships not only needs to be accelerated but that the contracts for the block building of the vessels must be guaranteed to UK shipyards.

This would help preserve jobs in the UK’s shipyards including Cammell Laird in Birkenhead which recently announced redundancies due to a lack of confirmed projects in its order books.

Protect cutting edge

Mr Turner added: “The government needs to dramatically improve its procurement policy to maintain the UK’s cutting edge defence industries. The current haphazard policy of feast and famine is not conducive to either developing products or skills and neither will it secure employment in a sector reliant on government funding.”

Invest in staff

Unite is further concerned that the money identified in the review needs to be spent wisely and this includes properly investing in staff who are currently facing a pay freeze. The union has also warned that the Ministry of Defence’s obsession with outsourcing is not a guaranteed path to providing either cost savings or a quality service.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: [email protected]

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.