Category Archives: Manufacturing
Though Cammell Laird’s Birkenhead shipyard won two contracts this month, worth a total of £619 million, to provide spares, repairs and do maintenance work for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary over10 years, news of plans to axe about 40% of the workforce (290 jobs) by the end of March 2019, was given to union representatives and workers today (11th October).
The Unite union is demanding that Cammell Laird sets out the business case for cuts which will see the loss of vital skills and ‘backdoor casualisation’ of the workforce. It fears that the proposed job losses will undermine the shipyard’s ability to fulfil new contracts.
Unite’s assistant general secretary for shipbuilding, Steve Turner, said: “The loss of jobs at Cammell Laird would see skills gone for a generation and be a further blow to the UK’s shipbuilding industry . . . it is clear that the government must and can do more to support UK shipbuilding jobs. This must include the government stepping in and supporting the retention of skills and jobs while shipyards like Cammell Laird wait for new contracts to come on stream”.
Instead of ‘offshoring’, the government should be handing contracts to build the Royal Navy’s new fleet solid support vessels and a £1.25bn contract for Type 31e frigates (maritime security-focused platforms) to UK shipyards, using British made steel as part of an industrial strategy that supports jobs and communities across our four nations.
Yesterday it was reported that MPs had urged civil servants (defence officials) to pick a UK company for the £1billion contract for three Fleet Solid Support vessels for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. Commons Defence Committee chairman and senior Tory MP Julian Lewis feared that foreign firms subsidised by their governments could undercut British rivals.
Penny-wise, pound foolish?
The MoD’s director general for finance told MPs the department’s biggest concern was “what will deliver the greatest value for money”- meaning the lowest bid – a narrow perspective. But as Labour MP John Spellar pointed out, the Treasury would benefit from tax revenue ploughed into public coffers if the work was carried out in the UK – “a significant return” – which would be multiplied by work given to British steel and component manufacturers.
Steve Turner said that a failure to have these ships made in Britain would be ‘a gross betrayal of UK ship workers and regional economies, putting at risk manufacturing skills vital to our country’.
New Fleet Solid Support ships: cash-strapped MoD should look at the total cost-benefit of building in Britain
Jeremy Corbyn is in Glasgow today, where – reversing New Labour policy – he will call for Navy shipbuilding contracts to stay in the UK.
The contract could lead to over 6,500 jobs in the UK, 1,800 of those in shipyards: “Our proposal would both sustain existing shipbuilding and supply chain jobs and create new ones – right here in Scotland and also across the UK.”
The MOD, which is alleged to have ‘lost controls of costs’, hopes for a cheaper option. Its spokesman added: “We are launching a competition for three new Fleet Solid Support ships this year and strongly encourage British yards to take part”.
“Until the new Fleet Solid Support Ships (FSS) arrive, these hardy veterans must stagger on into the mid-2020s”
The three currently supporting ships supply ammunition, food and spares are “antiques built in the late 1970s and saw action in the Falklands War”. Corbyn warns:
“By refusing to help our industry thrive, the Conservatives are continuing their historic trend of hollowing out and closing down British industry. Over the course of the 1980s under the Tories, 75,000 jobs were lost in UK shipyards, leaving just 32,000 remaining.
“Our shipyards used to produce half of all new ships worldwide. Our current market share is now less than half a per cent. The Tories seem hell-bent on accelerating and deepening this industrial decline.”
SNP MSP for Glasgow Anniesland, Bill Kidd, is sceptical, saying: “Workers on the Clyde and people across Scotland haven’t forgotten Labour’s betrayal of the industry in 2014.
Seven years ago, the Stirrer’s correspondent (The Spook) predicted that one day the powers that be will realise that services should be designed and managed by the ‘undoubted experts’ that exist within the council.
S/he explained that they would be more practical and less expensive than those designed by “by cavalier consultants and back room HR boffins who have no conception of delivering a service and are only concerned that “procedures” are followed and “statistics” are recorded, irrespective of how impractical and resource wasting this might be.
Yesterday the Financial Times predicted that Learndirect, a company owned by the private equity arm of Lloyds Bank, is at risk of collapse, following a report by Ofsted. This prompted a data search which revealed 2013-4 as vintage years for complaints about the performance and cost of outsourcing companies.
Last year a survey of 36 strategic public-private partnerships signed between 2000 and 2007 found that 13 of the contracts – ranging from 7 to 15 years and covering IT, back-office functions, property management and highways – have gone back in-house at the end of contract or as a result of early terminations. In more than a third of cases, councils found that delivering services in-house could save more than outsourcing to commercial companies in long-term, multi-service partnerships. A return to designing, staffing and over-seeing services in-house can improve performance, reduce costs and provide stable employment for local people at all levels, with money circulating in the area, instead of going to distant shareholders.
The New Statesman noted that many companies featured on their list of nine spectacular’ council outsourcing failures were said to be looking “excitedly” at the NHS – hoping for “heaps of public money, ditching service the second the contract is framed and delivering huge returns to their shareholders”. Its 2014 article opened:
“One of the many concepts that free marketeers refuse to abandon in the face of all evidence is the idea that the private sector is better at providing public services than the public sector. Private companies have been cashing in on this fable for years at council and government level. As we file this report, another glorious outsourcing triumph is breaking: the Ministry of Justice has asked police to investigate alleged fraudulent behaviour by Serco staff in its Prisoner Escort and Custodial Services contract”. An online search will reveal that this is one of many problems reported in different countries.
Punitive contract ‘get out’ clauses – real or imagined
The article also listed the amount councils have had to spend to get out of private sector contracts and/or to deal with contract disputes and cost overruns. Note Javelin Park – the Gloucester incinerator contract revelation.
Despite these concerns, four years ago Swindon council brought basic ‘commercial’ services such as waste collection, recycling, highways maintenance and grass cutting, back in-house in order to save an estimated £1.8m. Last year, because of performance problems, financial pressures and NHS policy shifts, Swindon also decided not to renew contract with social work provider SEQOL.
Birmingham City Council recently ended the Service Birmingham Joint Venture with Capita which provided the Council’s information technology, ran the council tax and business rates administration service. The process continues with its move to bring waste and recycling collection in-house.
With reference to Serco, G4S and others – Simon Chesterton goes deeper, beyond issues of cost and efficiency:
He asks (left) whether there should be any limits on government capacity to outsource traditionally “public” functions:
“Can and should a government put out to private tender the fulfilment of military, intelligence, and prison services?
Can and should it transfer control of utilities essential to life, such as the supply of water?”
Bloomberg reports that thirteen energy, transport and industrial companies are forming a hydrogen council to consult policy makers and highlight its benefits to the public as the world seeks to switch from dirtier energy sources, according to a joint statement issued on January 17th from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Council members Toyota Motor Corporation, BMW AG, Daimler AG, Honda Motor Co., Hyundai Motor Co., gas companies Air Liquide SA and Linde AG, miner Anglo American Plc, electric utility Engie SA, rail company Alstom SA and motorcycle and heavy equipment manufacturer Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd plan to invest a combined 10 billion euros ($10.7 billion) in hydrogen-related products within five years.
John Lippert, the author of the report, quotes Shell CEO Ben Van Beurden: “The world of energy is transforming very, very fast. Hydrogen has massive potential.”
Rather than using batteries to reduce pollution from cars, homes and utilities that are contributing to climate change, fuel cell vehicles are a cornerstone of Toyota’s plan to rid 90% of carbon dioxide emissions from its vehicles by 2050. It believes that it’s easier to convince consumers to use gasoline-electric hybrids and fuel cell vehicles rather than battery-electric autos, which tend to have less driving range and take longer to recharge than filling up with gasoline or hydrogen.
Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota’s chairman and a council co-chair, said “In addition to transportation, hydrogen has the potential to support our transition to a low-carbon society across multiple industries and the entire value chain”.
There are also pilot projects in hydrail and hydrogen-fuelled boats and barges – see in March 2016: Birmingham planners and engineers focus on clean transport.
Now thrive the armourers: unrepentant ‘special friends’, Britain, Saudi Arabia and the United States
Though cluster bombs were banned under international law in 2008, Amnesty International has found a UK-manufactured cluster bomb in Yemen and, according to Defense News, the United States has sold Riyadh cluster bombs and millions of dollars’ worth of training, information gathering, weapons and aerial refuelling support to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.
The International Business Times reports that for over a year, Human Rights Watch has recorded attacks on Yemen by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, killing civilians and destroying homes, schools and hospitals. They have used cluster bombs, which scatter explosive ‘bomblets’ across a wide area and eject a stream of molten metal designed to pierce metal armour as they detonate. After this, they explode into thousands of fragments killing and maiming all in the vicinity. If they don’t explode on impact, they become a danger to civilians on the ground. More on the technology here.
Amnesty International calls on the British government, which has rejected claims that the Saudi Arabian-led coalition has violated the laws of war during its conflict in Yemen:
- to stop the UK selling arms to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition that could be used in the Yemen conflict;
- to launch an immediate inquiry into how UK cluster bombs ended up in Yemen and
- to ensure the Saudi Arabia-led coalition destroys all remaining stocks of UK cluster munitions.
Has the Obama administration blocked sales of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia?
A few days later, Defense News and many other media outlets reported that the Obama administration has moved to block sales of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen, amid reports of mounting civilian casualties there. However no link was given and a search for the report in the named journal Foreign Policy found no reference on its site.
(Update, reader Felicity Arbuthnot found a link in another sticle: http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/27/exclusive-white-house-blocks-transfer-of-cluster-bombs-to-saudi-arabia – subscription only).
This move is said to follow rising criticism by U.S. lawmakers of America’s support for Saudi Arabia’s role in the year-long Yemeni conflict – not because of concern about the civilian casualties and infrastructure damage inflicted, but, it is alleged, due to increasing disappointment at the Saudis’ failure to do more to fight the militants of the Islamic State group in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.
Following on the commentary on our British values encapsulated on Facebook, we found more extensive contributions about British values from six people:
1. Taken over by greedy merchants so that the rich benefit at the expense of the poor, as well as at the expense of the planet (endpiece from Christine Parkinson’s first book, 2002)
She continues “I mainly refer to the people who trade in all kinds of goods for their own benefit, regardless of the effect this has on the stability of the world, its ecosystems, its mineral and animal resources, its local economies and cultural traditions . . . the capture and international trade in rare species, ivory, fur, immature primates etc; the development of animal foodstuffs from animal carcases (creating cannibalism in ruminant species and diseases like BSE and CJD); the holding of developing countries to ransom by powerful banks, through exploitative usury; a similar use of oil (itself a dangerous pollutant) by oil-producing countries; the development of powerful, polluting and dangerous motor vehicles for their owner’s enjoyment; the development of genetically-modified foods for commercial purposes; the unnecessary transport of foods across continents, adding to the pollution and global warming; currency speculation – an international casino in which unscrupulous traders destroy the economies of whole nations; multi-national trading by powerful companies, which destroys local cultures and gains profits by avoiding national controls; the siting of polluting factories close to human populations. The list could go on….
The mantra of freedom and the market economy:
There is a belief in freedom – but freedom for its own sake, without responsibility, without compassion . . . “Politicians promote a market economy as if it were a good thing but I saw that it was at the root of the cycle of destruction. Left without controls, it leads to competition and materialism, acquisitiveness spreading like a cancer, greed, the exploitation of one group, nation, or species by another, the concomitant resentment triggering jealousy and wars, with the end result being the ultimate destruction of our beautiful world by selfish people. Rather than assessing needs to develop standards, values and strategies, the vagaries of the market determine priorities and direction, so that the rich benefit at the expense of the poor, as well as at the expense of the planet…..”
2. We comfortably accept gross inequality: says India’s Mari Marcel-Thekaekara (1999)
“We were hit by the reality of the poverty surrounding us in Glasgow: “Most of the men in Easterhouse hadn’t had a job in 20 years. They were dispirited, depressed, often alcoholic. Their self esteem had gone. Emotionally and mentally they were far worse off than the poor where we worked in India, even though the trappings of poverty were less stark. We’d fallen into the trap of looking at poverty only from the point of view of material benefits. The Easterhouse people looked better-off than the Asian poor, but in reality they suffered as much social deprivation. The Easterhouse men who’d been jobless for twenty years felt far more helpless than people in India who scrabbled in garbage heaps to sell scrap metal, paper and rags to feed their children. Both groups were at the bottom of society”.
3. We still see the lordly disdain and defensive disapproval of an upper and middle-class generation: prosperous without much effort: Libby Purves – The Times, Comment: 7.9.99 (no link available):
“Many of these good little 1950s boys and girls in Clarks sandals appear to have grown up into the very people who
- get rich by feeding pornographic violence (“ironic” and otherwise) to modern children,
- who created the step-parent and weekend~access culture,
- who use computer games and junk television as a babysitter
- and who gaily abandoned both family meals and any, attempt to police their adolescents’ social lives.
“Moral decline” is intimately tied up with economic decline and blocked opportunities. The under-class culture of surly disaffection is mirrored by the lordly disdain and defensive disapproval of a middle-class generation that are prosperous without much effort. Harsh cries of “On your bike! To the job centre! Abort that baby immediately! Go to prison!” will not do the trick. It will take investment (but the Exchequer is awash with money, compared with recent decades). It will take infrastructure, understanding, doggedness. Unlike the cynics, I do not mind Mr Blair talking morality and vision and the big idea. I just long to see him do something about it”.
4. We are increasingly “politically correct, image-led, crony-run, promptly obsolescent, fragmented, pseudo-democratic, media-conscious, user-friendly corporately sponsored, celebrity-endorsed and of little consequence”: Graham Lane, Independent on Sunday: 16.1.00:
“The Dome is clearly the perfect metaphor for our age”: technology-driven, superficially educated, culturally hybrid (somewhere between shopping mall and theme park), designer-green, politically correct, image-led, crony-run, promptly obsolescent, fragmented, pseudo-democratic, media-conscious, user-friendly corporately sponsored, celebrity-endorsed and of little consequence”.
5. We have, in general, lost the principles of chivalry, self-restraint, service to others: Dr Peter Mullen
“A Spectator debate was held in 2007, the motion being “We should not be reluctant to assert the superiority of Western values”. “But what are these values?” asks Dr Peter Mullen (scroll down to his letter). His answer: “Lowbrow hedonism, sex & shopping, abortion on demand – in fact as a means of contraception, a lewd and trivial entertainments industry and a vile popular culture. What we are seeing is not a society that differs a morally serious challenge to militant Islam, but one which has lost its nerve and the principle of chivalry, self-restraint, service to others and examination of one’s own conscience”.
He asks: “Who does Whitehall serve?”
6. The political-corporate “buddy system”: an answer from the FT’s Elizabeth Rigby, 2011
“Vince Cable, business secretary, is to champion the interests of Britain’s oil and gas sector overseas as part of a push within government to boost the UK’s export market as well as attracting inward investment. Lord Green, the trade minister, has been working for months on plans to pair ministers with dozens of top companies in the UK, as he seeks to inject more commercial prowess into Whitehall. Under the scheme, unveiled in February, David Willetts, the universities and science minister, will be looking after life science companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and AstraZeneca. Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, will be working with the information and technology sector, while Mark Prisk, the enterprise minister, will be the point person in Whitehall for the car industry.
“The government first flagged that it would be pairing top exporters with ministers in February when Lord Green and Mr Cable unveiled a white paper aimed at enlarging Britain’s export markets. “Ministers will play an active role in developing and sustaining winning relationships with investors, as well as the UK’s top exporters,” said the UK Trade and Investment strategy paper. “These customers will be able to call on expertise and resources across government to ensure they receive a seamless ‘one-stop’ service”.
This “buddy system” is just one of a number of measures the government is putting in place to increase exports.
And only now, with the advent of Jeremy Corbyn, do we see any hope of a better future.