It had to happen sometime, in fact the warnings had been in place for some time, so it should not have come as a surprise. Yes, naval shipyards are being run down.
I’m referring to the loss of 900 jobs in Portsmouth and 800 jobs in Glasgow. In the great scheme of things, not even a third of the workforce in either place but it’s still tragic that so many people should lose their jobs, even though they’ll probably get redundancy pay-offs and some will naturally retire. If it’s any consolation I went through the same thing three years ago when I was made redundant by BAE Systems because the government foolishly decided to take the Harrier out of service. Admittedly I was near to a natural retirement date so was glad of the redundancy package offered and took it, but my future at the time was still uncertain. Three years down the road, I’m glad I never felt the need to look for a job, giving a youngster the chance to get one instead. This is despite the fact that there is a shortage of qualified, experienced, engineers in the UK.
The tragedy about Portsmouth and Govan is that the highly skilled workforce will dissipate and will be difficult to replace. I well remember though the American experience I witnessed at the Boeing plant in Philadelphia. There, the highly skilled workforce was laid off and re-hired as the orders for new aircraft came in or waned. In between times they flipped burgers, drove delivery trucks or did any other non-skilled job they could find. Boeing then put out a call for riveters or assembly men or whatever and they all quit their menial jobs and went back to assembling aeroplanes (Chinook helicopters in this case), but their pension rights and seniority were retained. Couldn’t the same be applied here? OK, so there are skilled jobs being lost, and the local council and government are promising job creation schemes to fill the void, but excuse me, am I missing something? Has all shipbuilding stopped all over the world? Britain used to be one of the biggest shipbuilding countries in the world. Never mind what was produced during the war, that’s contingency of the times, where were our great liners, Queen Elizabeth (1) and Queen Mary and many other capital ships built? Here in the little old UK. After all we are an ISLAND, sometimes politicians and the like seem to forget that. Our Navies both Royal and merchant are decimated, and we no longer build civilian ships here, except small yachts etc. Why is this? It’s mainly to do with the world market and the reduction in costs of building in Germany, Japan and unbelievably Norway. The USA build all their war ships and boats, how long will it be before we contract a foreign power (including Scotland) to build ours? We had a proud shipbuilding industry, building ships like the Titanic and it’s ilk, so why can’t we regain the initiative and compete in the world market. Many oil tanker and container ships are now built in the Far East, where the labour is far cheaper, but is the quality as good? Are our workers over paid, is the quality falling? Sadly we will probably never find out. The fact that Portsmouth will be reduced to a ‘maintenance and upgrade’ station is galling. Where once we had a great Navy who literally did ‘rule the world’, now we have more Captains and Admirals than we have ships. It’s pathetic, and all of it political. If it’s one thing politicians of any party can smell, it’s that a reduction in the forces spend appeases some liberals and lefties. But I repeat we are an ISLAND, therefore we need a strong, well equipped, fully manned Navy and Air Force to protect our shores. Let’s not forget the first and over-riding priority of any government in power in any country:
‘A state has a responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing’
United Nations Initiative 2005.
‘We are agreed that the first duty of government is to safeguard our national security’
Coalition Manifesto 2010
Just listening to the dreadful plight of the Philippines it seems obvious that we need ships to help support nations around the world facing the storms and seas whipped up by climate change. We’ll need to support the recovery of others as part of our own national security. I think you’re so right when you say we’re foolish to allow the loss of our own well built ships and the skills to maintain them.
Belated thanks Georgie, always appreciate comments.