BAE announce 1775 job losses at Portsmouth and Govan shipyards

Unite, the country’s largest union, will fight to retain as many of the 1,775 jobs under threat, following the announcement on Wednesday 6 November about the future of the shipyards at Portsmouth, and Govan and Scotstoun on the Clyde.

The announcement was prompted by the decline in work for the Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers as construction nears completion by the ‘carrier group’ of companies – BAE, Babcock, Rolls Royce and Thales. Unite national officer for shipbuilding Ian Waddell said: “This is a very worrying time for the workforces and their families as the work on the two carriers comes to a conclusion.

“Unite will be working very hard to retain the maximum number of jobs at both Portsmouth and in Scotland. It is a huge blow to Britain’s manufacturing and industrial base, with many highly skilled workers faced with losing their jobs. We will have to examine the BAE business case in detail to see how we can secure a future for the workforces at both Portsmouth and in Scotland. We believe that, if this is approached in a constructive and innovative way, it can be achieved.

“The seeds for this situation were sown in the 1980’s when the Thatcher government used European structural funds to close shipyards, rather than funding investment that would have allowed Britain to compete in the global marketplace for shipbuilding orders against the likes of South Korea.”

Union reps will be meeting in Farnborough on Monday and Tuesday next week to discuss the full implications of today’s announcement.

Robert McCreath of Archon Solicitors commented on the closures: “The level of redundancy settlements is likely to depend on any relevant contractual terms and/or collective agreements as well as anything extra that can be negotiated by the unions.  As a minimum, employees with more than two years’ service will be entitled to statutory redundancy pay (calculated in the usual way according to their age and length of service and based on the current limit of £450 for a week’s pay). Any additional financial payments may be made subject to employees signing up to settlement agreements.

“Unfair dismissal claims could be made by employees who regard themselves as having been unfairly selected for redundancy. However, in my view it would be difficult for employees to claim that selection was unfair as between Portsmouth and the Scottish yards. I have heard a suggestion that nationality discrimination claims could be brought as a result of the cuts having a greater impact on English workers than Scots, but I very much doubt that any such claim would be successful – even though a Portsmouth worker was heard on BBC News to suggest that the prevalence of Scots on the BAe board was a factor!

“Business decisions of this kind (assuming that it was a business rather than a political decision) are always difficult for employees and/or unions to challenge through the law. Generally, the law recognises that those running businesses have the right to take such decisions.

“There are, however, obligations to consult collectively with employee representatives before taking any decision which will inevitably lead to mass redundancies, as in this case. It seems that discussions with the unions have been going on for quite some time and so it is highly likely that BAe has complied with its consultation obligations.

“If there was political interference in the decision-making to the extent that BAe was effectively dictated to by the Government, the Government’s actions could be susceptible to judicial review. On the basis of what is currently in the public domain, that too would be a difficult case to bring.”

Pilkington Glass announce 140 job losses

Unite, Britain’s biggest union, has vowed to do everything possible to defend jobs at Pilkington Glass’ manufacturing site in St Helens, Lancashire. The company has announced (7 November) plans to close the Cowley Hill site with the loss of 140 skilled manufacturing jobs. Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: “There are thousands of manufacturing workers up and down the country who will be wondering what David Cameron and George Osborne mean when they talk about a recovery. Valuable manufacturing  jobs in steel, shipbuilding and now glass continue to haemorrhage while the government does next to nothing to support the sector.

“Unite will be meeting with Pilkington management over the coming days and we will be scrutinising the company’s proposals to cut 140 skilled jobs. The union will also be meeting the workforce to listen to their views on this terrible announcement. These are skilled manufacturing jobs and we will be doing as much as possible to mitigate the impact on the workforce.”

Next week Unite will launch its strategy for manufacturing “Made In Britain” which calls for a new and workable manufacturing strategy to defend and create skilled jobs and bring about a long-term re-balancing of the economy in favour of manufacturing.