GMB: UK shipyards need to get £1bn order for new RFA ships

The UK government should reverse its decision to put a £1 billion order for three new military support ships out to non-UK bidders, the country’s union for shipbuilding workers GMB said. 

As explained, the New Fleet Solid Support ships are needed to service the UK’s £6.3 billion Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers and their strikeforce of new F-35 fighter planes.

The Ministry of Defence has said that the order will go out to full international tender on April 30, 2018. Shipyards in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, South Korea and Spain are eyeing the defense contract.

GMB new research shows that up to 6,700 jobs could be created or secured in the UK if the order went to a domestic shipbuilder – including 1,800 much needed shipyard jobs. A further 4,700 jobs could be secured in the wider supply chain – including in the steel industry.

The union estimates that £285 million would also be returned to the taxpayer through income tax, national insurance contributions and lower welfare payments.

Exclusive Survation polling, commissioned by GMB, found that 74 percent of people want the new Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) ships built in the UK.

Leave voters were also significantly more likely to support a general policy of retaining defence manufacturing orders in the UK than Remain voters (by 64 per cent to 52 per cent).

“The Government looks set to repeat the blue passports fiasco by putting another order of national significance out to tender abroad.Ministers are not bound by normal EU rules on competitive tendering when it comes to military ships. There really can be no excuse for sending our shipbuilding contracts overseas,” Ross Murdoch, GMB National Officer for Shipbuilding, said.

“At a time when global tensions are rising, the Government should use this order to ‘buy for Britain’ and rebuild our defence shipbuilding manufacturing capabilities. Shipbuilding workers are disillusioned by orders flowing overseas while highly skilled jobs at UK shipyards are being cut,” Murdoch added.