The production of the Royal Air Force’s new fleet of surveillance aircraft could be outsourced to the US, a move Unite says would be a further betrayal of UK defence workers by the Tories.
The government is in exclusive talks with US aerospace manufacturer Boeing it has been revealed, leading the union to call on defence secretary Gavin Williamson to open up the multi-billion pound contract to competition.
Unite understands that if the Ministry of Defence allowed an open competition a joint bid by Airbus and Saab would result in a much larger portion of the work being done in the UK.
Unite assistant general secretary for aerospace Steve Turner said, “Theresa May boasted in her conference speech of a cutting edge industrial strategy that supports British industry and jobs.
“Yet at the same her defence secretary is in talks to hand over a multi-billion pound contract to Boeing in a move that would further hollow out the UK’s defence manufacturing capability.
“In the past 10 years over 50,000 decent well paid jobs have gone in the UK’s defence industry while an increasing amount of the defence budget is spent in overseas factories.
“It would be yet another betrayal of UK defence workers if the contract to replace the RAF’s surveillance fleet was handed to factories overseas without UK workers being given a fair crack of the whip in an open competition.”
By 2020 nearly 25 per cent of the UK’s spending on defence equipment will go to US factories, despite pledges by the Conservatives to develop British industry.
The Prime Minister’s industrial strategy has been roundly criticised as inadequate, with critics, including Unite, pointing to a lack of action to close the UK’s yawning skills gap, minimal investment in crucial infrastructure and a refusal to prioritise procurement from UK firms, products and supply chains.
“The UK government has got to start making the right decisions and back UK manufacturing by making sure that British jobs benefit if the British taxpayer is paying for it,” Turner explained.
“This means building these aircraft and the Royal Navy’s fleet solid support vessels in the UK using British steel. Anything less would make a mockery of the government’s boasts of a coherent industrial strategy.”