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UK Government shipbuilding strategy without RFA contracts will create ‘dog eat dog’ competition

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

UK Government shipbuilding strategy without RFA contracts will create ‘dog eat dog’ competition

GMB Scotland has warned the failure of the UK Government to include contracts for three Royal Navy support vessels in its National Shipbuilding Strategy will mean ‘dog eat dog’ competition across British shipyards for future work.

In an interview with the BBC Good Morning Scotland programme this morning (Wednesday 6 September), Defence Secretary Michael Fallon confirmed that the contracts for three 40,000 tonne Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessels would be subject to international tender – a position reinforced in the House of Commons this afternoon.

GMB has previously said the key to unlocking the full potential of Sir John Parker’s Shipbuilding Report rested in the delivery of the RFA contracts to UK yards on a work share programme, mirroring the arrangements of the aircraft carrier alliance project.

Instead, UK yards will now have to compete for piecemeal work from five Type-31 Frigate vessels, originally intended for the Upper Clyde, posing serious problems for the retention of existing jobs and skills at yards like Rosyth.

GMB Scotland Organiser and Scottish Chair of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions (CSEU) Gary Cook said: “We urged the UK government to move at pace on the delivery of the RFA contracts through a work share programme but Michael Fallon has announced the complete opposite.

Without the RFAs, UK shipbuilding will be a ‘dog eat dog’ environment with yards across the country competing for the Type-31 work, creating a big problem for Scottish shipbuilding.

Although the future of the Upper Clyde is secure until the 2030s through the Type-26 programme, the promised ‘frigate factory’, vital to the UK’s ability to compete in the global market, has been shelved. 

And of more pressing concern is how this strategy is going to defend the 3,800 jobs currently supported by the Rosyth yard when the aircraft carrier contract work reaches its conclusion.

The truth is that work from the Type-31 programme will not be enough to sustain current levels of employment and skills, both direct and supply chain, at Rosyth.

Against the backdrop of Brexit, RFA work that could sustain and grow our shipbuilding industry will be delivered abroad.  Shipbuilders up and down the country will be appalled at that prospect.”


Contact: GMB Scotland Organiser Gary Cook on 07712 677594 or Peter Welsh, GMB Scotland Communications, on 07976 447077.

Notes to Editors: This morning’s BBC Radio Scotland interview with Secretary of State for Defence, Sir Michael Fallon MP, can be heard at from 1 min 56 secs.