The Ministry of Defence’s decision to freeze a competition to build the new Type 31e frigates despite detailed submissions from consortiums of UK shipyards that are backed by both Babcock and BAE Systems leaves the government’s shipbuilding strategy in tatters, Unite said today (July 25).
Unite, which is the UK’s largest union representing defence workers, went on to warn that the decision risks hollowing out the UK’s shipbuilding capability and betraying manufacturing communities across the UK.
Unite will be seeking urgent meetings with the Ministry of Defence to demand answers on the chaos now surrounding the project, in addition to meetings with the firms and suppliers engaged in the bid to build the new ships.
“The government needs to answer some urgent and serious questions about why ministers have frozen the Type 31e frigate programme,” said Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner.
“This decision is a slap in the face to both the BAE Systems and the Babcock led consortiums of UK shipyards which were bidding for the frigate contract and has the potential to hollow out the UK’s shipbuilding capability,” he added.
“The scheduling of the Type 31e frigate build ensured that skills and jobs on the carrier programme would be utilised ahead of other shipbuilding projects coming on line. This freeze now risks highly skilled workers leaving the industry and decent jobs being lost.
“The chaos surrounding the Type 31e frigate also has severe ramifications, not just for shipbuilding communities, but for tens of thousands of workers across the UK in the supply chain in areas such as steel and engineering.
“This devastating news follows the government’s refusal to guarantee that the navy’s three new Fleet Solid Support (FSS) ships will be built in UK shipyards, despite a consortium being formed under the ‘Team Albion’ banner. It leaves its shipbuilding and wider industrial strategy in tatters,” Turner added.
“The government needs to urgently rethink its decision to freeze the Type 31e frigate programme and guarantee that the navy’s new support ships are built in the UK using UK steel.
“Anything less will be viewed as a snub and a betrayal by workers and their families in shipbuilding and manufacturing communities across the UK.”