Devon shipbuilding workers travelled to Parliament today (October 30) to hand in an 8,000-signature petition calling on the government to step up and save the embattled Appledore Shipyard.
Unite and the GMB, the unions which represent the Babcock International workers, recently launched a campaign to save the shipyard, which is rumoured to be poised closure after not having received any new orders. The closure would not only threaten about 200 jobs but would also put an end to the rich history of one of the UK’s oldest shipyards dating back 163 years.
The situation at Appledore has been exacerbated by the loss of a contract to Italian yard Fincantieri.
The nascent joint union campaign to save the shipyard held a successful rally this Saturday (October 27) in Bideford, where an estimated 500 people attended.
Unite Babcock convenor Barry Hooper (pictured left), among the delegation that travelled to Parliament today, called the rally a “fantastic” show of solidarity.
“In addition to people from the workforce, we had a lot of retired workers from generations of shipbuilders and their families turn out; we also had a lot of people turn out from the community with absolutely no family relations working in the yard. We had people from Somerset, Plymouth, South Wales, and other areas come to support us – it far exceeded anything our union reps and officers expected.”
Hooper told UniteLive why the Appledore jobs are so vital to the local community.
“We are the last bit of heavy engineering in our area in north Devon,” he said. “We employ 200 people in the yard – many more jobs in the area are dependent on the men in the yard spending their wages. The supply industry likewise depends on those jobs in Appledore; not to mention the future of our young people – the next couple of generations of people who want jobs in shipbuilding and manufacturing.”
After delivering their petition to their local MP Geoffrey Cox, who is also the Attorney General, Hooper and his colleagues are scheduled to meet with Labour shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith and Wayne David, shadow defence minister.
A copy of the petition will be sent to the office of defence secretary Gavin Williamson.
Tomorrow, Hooper noted, the delegation will travel to Babcock International headquarters in London to further press their case about the importance of keeping the Appledore shipyard open.
Unite regional officer Heathcliffe Pettifer, also part of today’s delegation, warned that the “impact on the Devon economy will be widespread, devastating and enduring, if the yard closes.”
He said the defence secretary “has it within his power to save the shipyard” by committing to having defence work sent to Appledore and its highly skilled workers as part of an industrial shipbuilding strategy that the government has so far failed to implement.
“We are still demanding that serious questions need to be asked of the top management of Babcock International, following a damning report by The Boatman Capital Research highlighting the toxic relationship between the company and the Ministry of Defence (MoD),” Pettifer added, referring to a report published this month highly critical of Babcock management.
“Our members’ jobs should not be sacrificed because of the apparent incompetence of senior executives at Babcock International.”