"Too often today, people are ready to tell us, 'this is not possible; that is not possible'. I say, whatever the true interest of our country calls for, is always possible!"
- Enoch Powell.
Monday, 29 November 2010
British shipbuilders axed because Poles are 30% cheaper: 300 workers on the Royal Navy's new carriers laid off
Hundreds of Britons who were building two aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy have lost their jobs because they were not as cheap as Polish workers, it was claimed last night.
In the past six weeks, around 300 Britons working on the £5.2billion warships have been sacked.
But none of the cut-price Poles has been laid off. They earn around £9.50 an hour while UK tradesmen doing similar jobs are paid £15 an hour.
Computer-generated image issued by the MoD of an aircraft carrier that is due to be built in Britain. In the past six weeks, around 300 Britons working on building two of the new warships for the Royal Navy have been sacked in favour of cheaper Polish workers
Some of the British workers were told they were being made redundant after receiving a text message at the end of their shift at BAE Systems’ dockyard in Portsmouth.
The defence giant is part of a consortium building the 65,000-ton vessels, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales. The first is due to launch in 2016.
The scale of the programme has meant subcontractors working for BAE Systems were forced to recruit workers from Poland because they couldn’t find workers in the UK with the necessary skills.
Shipyard sources told the Mail that about 900 agency workers had been building the aircraft carriers, but this number has been cut to around 600.
But only British welders, draughtsmen and platers hired by Matchtech had been given their marching orders. Forty-two of them were laid off last Tuesday.
Another subcontractor, Inter Marine, which supplies around 120 Polish workers to the shipyard and pays them one-third less than British tradesmen, has not been told to lay anyone off.
Last month the Daily Mail revealed how Polish welders had been drafted in to work on the aircraft carriers – in the Royal Navy’s first ever mass recruitment of overseas workers.
Some learned their skills on Soviet submarines during the Cold War when Poland was behind the Iron Curtain.
BAE insists it has laid off only 110 workers and that they were building patrol vessels for foreign countries.
But insiders said the workforce building the carriers had been reduced in a cost-cutting drive.
The BAE Systems shipyard at Govan, on the Clyde in Glasgow. Six shipyards around Britain are currently building the £5.2billion warships
One worker, a welder who asked not to be named, told how he was made redundant on Tuesday.
‘It came out of the blue,’ he said. ‘I had just finished my shift on the carrier and I received a text asking me to ring the [Matchtech] office. When I did all they gave me was one week’s notice. I’ve been travelling here for two years, living in digs and away from my family because it’s where the work is.
‘There are rumours that they are planning a great recruitment drive in Poland in the new year as the workers are cheaper. None of them have been laid off at all, so it’s all about the money really.’
The 34-year-old father-of-two said: ‘Christmas is going to be hard this year for my family as I expected to be working.’
Many other Britons left their homes in Glasgow, Newcastle upon Tyne and Liverpool to work on the aircraft carriers.
Six shipyards around Britain are building them. The separate sections will then be transferred for assembly to Rosyth in Scotland – in the constituency neighbouring Gordon Brown’s.
In last month’s strategic defence review, the Government ruled out cancelling one of the carriers because it said it would cost more than going ahead with both.
Ministers criticised ‘unbreakable’ contracts signed by the former prime minister to guarantee jobs in his local area.
Critics warned that Britain could lose its shipbuilding skills.
Commander John Muxworthy, chief executive of the UK National Defence Association, said: ‘More and more small companies cannot retain skilled workmen because there are no jobs, so slowly but surely we are losing our capability to produce our own equipment.
‘There is a risk we are putting ourselves in the hands of other nations. We know only too well from the Falklands conflict that sometimes other nations decline to provide us with what we need.’
Inter Marine general manager Dave Bailey said: ‘There have been no redundancies from our point of view.’ Matchtech declined to comment.
BAE Systems said: ‘We have reduced the level of temporary agency contractors in Portsmouth in line with changes in production requirements as our current export programmes reach the advanced ship build stages.’