Published On: Thu, Apr 19th, 2018

‘Sold down the river!’ £1BILLION MoD contract could go to foreign shipyard, union warns

The GMB said British shipyards are “more than capable” of building the three Royal Fleet Auxiliary boats at a competitive price.

But because the new vessels are not warships, the MoD is allowed to put the contract out to international tender.

The GMB says up to 6,700 jobs could be secured or created in the UK if the order went to a British shipyard.

An additional 4,700 jobs could be secured in supply chain companies, the union said.

A recent MoD industry day, hosted to provide companies with more information about the contract, attracted shipbuilding firms from Germany, Italy, Poland, Holland, Spain and South Korea.

The MoD says it “strongly encourages” British yards to bid for the job.

But the GMB has warned of a backlash over any decision to award the order to a foreign firm, citing the recent row over where the UK’s post-Brexit blue passports should be produced as an example of the strength of public opinion behind the issue.

National officer Ross Murdoch, said: “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.

“We have a highly skilled shipbuilding workforce in the UK that is more than capable of making these ships at a fair market price.”

Foreign firms will be able to bid for the contract if a Government decision to put the job out to tender goes ahead as planned later this month.

But Mr Murdoch told Mail Online British workers would feel as if they had been “sold down the river” if the order goes to “artificially subsidised international competitor shipyards” instead of a domestic yard.

He added: “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.

“It would be a gross betrayal of the spirit of the ‘red, white and blue Brexit’ that Theresa May promised if this crucial contract is awarded outside of the UK and jobs here are lost as a result.”

The huge new ships are needed to support Royal Navy vessels by keeping them stocked with supplies while at sea.

An MoD spokesman said: “All our warships are built in the UK and with the Type 26 frigates securing 4,000 Scottish jobs and 20 years of work on the Clyde, and industry preparing to bid for the new Type 31e class, we are witnessing a renaissance in British shipbuilding.

“We are launching a competition for three new Fleet Solid Support ships this year and strongly encourage British yards to take part.”

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