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Strike ballot over 'unnecessary' job losses at Cammell Laird

Two employees of Cammell Laird's ship builders in Birkenhead are seen through a hole in the yard's wall. Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Archive/PA Images

Unite members at Cammell Laird will be balloted for industrial action over the company's plans to cut the workforce by 40 per cent – despite having work for the next decade on the order books.

Unite the union will start balloting its more than 230 members at the Birkenhead shipyard on Monday (29 October) over whether they wish to strike and/or take industrial action short of a strike over the job losses planned. The ballot closes on Friday 9 November.

The union believe more than 290 jobs could be lost by March 2019, despite the shipyard recently winning two contracts, worth a total of £619 million, to support and maintain ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary over 10 years.

Unite fears that the company wants to casualise the workforce that will see vital shipbuilding skills lost for a generation, as full-time jobs are replaced by agency labour.

“We had a meeting with the management yesterday (Thursday 25 October) and the outcome was that we are more convinced than ever that there is no reason to make compulsory redundancies.

“This is why our members will begin to receive ballot papers on Monday asking them if they want to take industrial action, including the option of strikes, to defend their jobs.

“The mid-to-long term future of this shipyard is bright, Managers have told us by the end of 2019 they will be in the strongest position since the yard re-opened in 2001, as they will have 10–15 years of work on the horizon.

“We believe that the announcement of the Mersey ferry building contract is imminent. Should this be awarded to Cammell Laird, this would secure more jobs. We understand that there are other contracts in the offing that could also boost the future employment prospects at Cammell Laird even further.

“We believe that these planned job losses are unnecessary and a slap in the face for a dedicated workforce.

“We call on all those stakeholders involved to come together to bring work forward. We won’t accept our members’ jobs being sacrificed as the easy solution to a short term problem that has been magnified by management for its own cost-cutting ends.”

– Unite regional officer Ross Quinn

The shipyard has confirmed it is in consultation with workers and unions over cutting jobs but insists Cammell Laird's long-term future remains bright.

"Cammell Laird is principally a marine and engineering contracting business. This means we can have peaks in demand for skilled and semi-skilled labour, which is the nature of contract based industries.

"Contracting is our business model and that has enabled us to invest in our workforce infrastructure and apprentices to date, and will do so in the future.

"However, as a result of numerous contracts entering the latter phases, and without certainty in the award of similar contracts in the immediate term, the company needs to address its cost base to remain competitive. Consequently there are jobs at risk.

"We continue to bid for numerous contracts around the world and we remain very optimistic for future growth."

– Cammell Laird spokesman


Shipyard prepares for launch of RRS Sir David Attenborough

The vessel at Cammell Laird’s Birkenhead construction shed Credit: Liverpool Echo Syndication

Preparations are being made for the official launch of the Antarctic survey ship once dubbed 'Boaty McBoatface.'

The 10,000 tonne RRS Sir David Attenborough will be released into the Mersey a week tomorrow at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead.

It will be operated by the British Antarctic Survey and will provide scientists with state-of-the-art facilities to allow them to conduct research in some of the most inhospitable conditions in the world.

The launch will be attended by 2,000 Cammell Laird staff and local dignitaries. Broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, who the ship is named after, is also expected to be present.

The ship was almost named RRS Boaty McBoatface after a competition to christen the ship was launched back in 2016.

More than 124,000 people voted for the suggestion, but the Natural Environment Research Council decided not to go with it.

Could new plan for warships be a boost for North West shipyards in Barrow and Merseyside?

North West shipyards are hoping for a boost after news that Britain's new fleet of frigates could be built in blocks at various locations up and down the country.

The multi million pound warships will then be assembled at a central site.

New plan for assembling warships could boost shipbuilding at Cammell Laird Credit: PA

Both Cammell Laird and Barrow have a rich shipbuilding tradition. The warships could be built in blocks across several British shipyards and then assembled at a central hub, the Defence Secretary has announced.

Sir Michael Fallon said the first batch of new Type 31e frigates would be built with the export market in mind, with the UK shipbuilding industry potentially serving both the Royal Navy and navies of allies and partners.

The Queen launching the new Ark Royal in 1950 at Cammell Laird Credit: PA

As part of this approach, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that the first batch of five Type 31e frigates could be built across different shipyards, before being assembled at a central site. Their cost would be capped at no more than 250 million each.

The frigates are due to be in service by 2023 and shipyards would be encouraged to ensure the vessel was competitive on the global market by working with "global partners".

Barrow shipyard - work on submarine at Bae Systems Credit: PA

The plans form part of a new national shipbuilding strategy which accepts the recommendations of an independent report into the industry by Sir John Parker, the chairman of mining giant Anglo American.

In November, Sir John said the Navy fleet was being depleted by a "vicious cycle" of old ships retained beyond their sell-by date, and found that the procurement of naval ships took too long from concept to delivery compared with other industries.

He recommended a "sea change", with "pace and grip" from the Government so that shipyards across the UK could compete to win work and create jobs.

Workers hoping for a brighter future at Cammell Laird Birkenhead Credit: PA

This new approach will lead to more cutting-edge ships for the growing Royal Navy that will be designed to maximise exports and be attractive to navies around the world.

Backed up by a commitment to spend billions on new ships, our plan will help boost jobs, skills and growth in shipyards and the supply chain across the UK.

– Sir Michael Fallon

The separation of the building work for the new frigates reflects the approach taken for the Navy's biggest ever ship, the 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The MoD said the ship was built in blocks by more than 10,000 people in six British cities, before being assembled in Rosyth in Scotland, then commencing sea trials in June and arriving in her home port of Portsmouth last month.

The method was also used to build British polar research ship, RRS Sir David Attenborough, which the majority of respondents to an online poll famously wanted to name Boaty McBoatface.

I am very impressed by the courage that the Secretary of State has shown - and the Government - in adopting my recommendations, which were very extensive, and will change the shape of naval shipbuilding over the country in the future.

The next challenge is to come up with a world-leading design; one that can satisfy the needs of the Royal Navy and the export market.

We have the capability to do that, the will is there and it is a tremendous opportunity for UK shipbuilding.

I see no reason why industry will not rise to that challenge.

There is an incredible keenness from around the country, from Scotland to Merseyside, to the South West and over to Belfast.

– Sir John Parker, the chairman of mining giant Anglo American.

Minister announces 500 new jobs for Merseyside

Credit: Cammell Laird

Minister of State for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson announced today that the preferred bidder to build a new polar research vessel is Birkenhead based ship builders Cammell Laird. He said this would create 500 jobs in Merseyside:


Jailed shipyard worker takes fight for justice to Europe

A former shipyard worker from Aintree jailed after an industrial dispute thirty years ago is taking his fight to clear his name to the European Parliament.

Eddie Marnell is one of 37 men arrested at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead during a strike over redundancies in 1984.

Cammell Laird is now an entirely different company under different management.

But Eddie has won the right to have his petition considered in Brussels.

Daniel Hewitt reports.

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