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.
The MoD’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation (DE & S formerly DESO), employs 16,000 full-time staff and more than 3,400 contractors to handle the three armed services’ £14bn annual spending on new equipment and on maintenance. It oversees Britain’s £163bn 10-year defence budget and most of the government’s largest expenditure projects.
But today, the Times and the FT confidently predict that defence secretary Michael Fallon, speaking at an Institute of Directors dinner in Durham, will reveal many shortcomings, including fraudulent charges that arms companies have levied on the taxpayer for:
- croquet lessons,
- horseracing trips,
- speeding tickets
- and magicians.
And today, the National Audit Office has released a report saying that during attempts by the DE & S to privatise the running of procurement, which were abandoned in December 2013 after a collapse of the bidding process, MoD civil servants had ‘squandered’ £33m on consultancy fees and preparatory work.
Mr Fallon’s proposal:
A Whitehall defence watchdog will be set up, with the power to fine defence companies up to £1m if it discovers abuse of the contracting process. The defence secretary will tell the audience that the MoD will demand “100% transparency”.
FT: “Mr Fallon’s remarks are likely to be greeted coolly by a defence industry that has so far been broadly critical of government reform efforts”.
And sadly, the ‘fat cat’ mentality survives unscathed . . . The FT reported (14.4.14) that the MoD had asked the Treasury for permission to give top staff in the new watchdog inflation-busting pay rises or bonuses when they leave.
Theresa sent news reported by Francis Elliott, Political Editor of the Times. A template for reform of aid spending has been drawn up by Tobias Ellwood, Mr Cameron’s envoy to Nato, who points out:
“Considering the financial pressure the MoD is under it makes sense to utilise funds earmarked for ODA spend, where of course it is permitted, which are currently sitting in the DfID”.
This news paled into insignificance when Mark sent news of the Obama government’s attempted subversion of Cuban society – no doubt hoping for a ‘Cuban spring’.
The Obama government’s USAID attempted subversion of Cuban society
It was first reported by Associated Press, ‘the world’s oldest and largest newsgathering organization’: “The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) masterminded the creation of a “Cuban Twitter,” a communications network designed to undermine the communist government in Cuba, built with secret shell companies and financed through foreign banks . . .
“The project, which lasted more than two years and drew tens of thousands of subscribers, sought to evade Cuba’s stranglehold on the Internet with a primitive social media platform. Its users were neither aware it was created by a U.S. agency with ties to the State Department, nor that American contractors were gathering personal data about them. In 2012, the text messaging service vanished as mysteriously as it appeared”.
According to documents obtained by the Associated Press and multiple interviews with people involved in the project:
“When the network reached a critical mass of subscribers, perhaps hundreds of thousands, operators would introduce political content aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize “smart mobs” — mass gatherings called at a moment’s notice that might trigger a Cuban Spring, or, as one USAID document put it, renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society”.
It was reported that this project was carried out by a high-tech team, directed by Joe McSpedon who worked for USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI). OTI was created after the fall of the Soviet Union to promote U.S. interests in quickly changing political environments — without the usual red tape. The team of contractors set up servers in Spain and Ireland to process texts, contracting an independent Spanish company called Lleida.net to send the text messages back to Cuba, while stripping off identifying data.
In 2011, the State Department’s Secretary Hillary Clinton thought social media was an important tool in diplomacy. At George Washington University, she said the U.S. helped people in “oppressive Internet environments get around filters.” In Tunisia, she said people used technology to “organize and share grievances, which, as we know, helped fuel a movement that led to revolutionary change.”
Josefina Vidal, director of U.S. affairs at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry, commented that the ZunZuneo program “shows once again that the United States government has not renounced its plans of subversion against Cuba, which have as their aim the creation of situations of destabilization in our country to create changes in the public order and toward which it continues to devote multimillion-dollar budgets each year.” Many will heartily agree with her restrained conclusion:
“The government of the United States must respect international law and the goals and principles of the United Nations charter and, therefore, cease its illegal and clandestine actions against Cuba, which are rejected by the Cuban people and international public opinion”.
Senior military officers and Ministry of Defence officials have taken up more than 3,500 jobs in arms companies over the past 16 years, according to figures that reveal the extent of the “revolving door” between the public and private sector.
The data, compiled by the Guardian from freedom of information requests -read on: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/oct/15/mod-military-arms-firms
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has found more than 200 radioactive particles on the shore at Dalgety Bay, a pretty town on the Fife coast.
Dalgety Bay hosted a wartime airfield, where many aircraft were dismantled. They were used as landfill after the Second World War and it is thought erosion has led to radioactive radium from the aircraft dials leaking on to the foreshore.
Why the delay?
The Ministry of Defence is investigating the scale of the problem and ways it might be put right, but has not promised a full and final clean-up of the bay, despite calls for it to do so from the local MP and former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and a recent discovery of particles far more radioactive than those previously found.
After a meeting between Sepa, the MoD and members of the local community in November, Sepa said it wanted a draft of the MoD’s plan to tackle the problem of cleaning up the site by the end of January 2012, with a final set of plans by the end of February. Neither have been done.
On 2nd May, BBC’s Face the Facts programme revealed:
- how the MOD has cleaned up other sites deemed far less radioactive;
- how it sold off contaminated land for development with radium undetected;
- how a lack of records means it does not know where similar sites might be and
- how a leaked government report from the 1950s warned of the danger of radium dumps being forgotten or, in the case of privately-owned land, deliberately concealed.
Passing the buck?
A declassified report, now in the National Archives, which was obtained by Radio 4’s investigative programme Face the Facts shows that the MoD has long accepted its past activities are the most likely cause of the problem. However, it argues that radium particles may have escaped from where they were buried due to the actions of developers.
BBC Scotland reports that UK defence minister Andrew Robathan said the MoD did not at present accept full liability for the problem:
“For instance, there has been industrial sites. I understand there has been a ship-breaking yard just down the way. There’s been earth movement which of course has disturbed a great deal of stuff. There’s been housing estates built.”
“Radioactive Contaminated Land“
A SEPA spokesman said that if the MoD did not offer a satisfactory solution, Sepa will continue with its progress to designate the land as contaminated by the end of March.
The Financial Times reports yet another example of the political-corporate nexus in this country:
“Serco, the FTSE 100 company shortlisted for a £1bn contract to handle army hiring, has hired the Ministry of Defence’s head of recruitment.
“Brigadier Jolyon Jackson, currently director of training and operations at the MoD, will join Serco’s defence, science and nuclear division early next year with a brief to improve its operational efficiency”.