Hundreds of skilled jobs will be cut at Rosyth Dockyard following the completion of the naval aircraft carriers project, it was announced today.
Yard owners Babcock said 250 staff would no longer be needed as work is finished on the super carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, a 10-year project which has cost more than £6bn and endured numerous delays.
The defence giant stressed the future outlook for Rosyth remained bright with more naval orders on the horizon.
But SNP MP Douglas Chapman, whose constituency includes the Fife port town, described the decision as a ‘crushing blow’ for workers.
A Babcock spokesman said: “The prospects for Babcock’s operations at Rosyth remain good. The last ten years of the Queen Elizabeth class carrier programme has been an outstanding success story. Unfortunately, given the one-off nature of this large-scale programme, as the ships begin to be handed over to our customer, we must inevitably reshape our business to remain competitive and take on new challenges, which we firmly believe exist for Rosyth.
“However, medium term opportunities cannot compensate for the 250 or so specific roles and capabilities no longer needed with the slow-down of the QEC work.
“Our employees are our priority throughout this process, we understand how unsettling this news may be and we will work closely with those affected and our trade union representatives through this consultation period to redeploy or relocate as many employees as possible within our wider organisation and support those who wish to take this opportunity to move on.
“We remain committed to providing a safe and secure environment for our workforce that supports both our current and future operational needs. In fact, looking to the future we have recently taken on our yearly intake of apprentices and graduates, underlining our focus of developing and delivering the best solutions in the most effective ways for our customers”.
Mr Chapman said: “Only yesterday I asked the secretary of state for defence at Westminster what reassurances he can give to workers at Rosyth following the departure of the carriers and if he would visit Rosyth. Now - less than 24 hours later- this dreadful news is delivered to dockyard workers. It is deeply worrying that these jobs are lost as the UK Government launches their new industrial strategy.
“The secretary of state said he was ‘incredibly grateful for the amazing work’ the Rosyth workforce have done on the carriers - but people in my constituency cannot live on a Tory minister’s platitudes. They need follow-on contracts and deals, and this latest news underlines the importance of continuing the fight for future Type 31e, fleet auxiliary ships and the other contracts to come to Rosyth.”
He added: “In the meantime, I will be following up on yesterday’s parliamentary question and ask him to join me in Rosyth to ascertain exactly what work can come to Rosyth so we do not lose any more of the skills, talent and dedication of the workforce here in West Fife.”
Richard Hardy, Secretary for Scotland at union Prospect National, said: “We’ve known for some time that an announcement was likely, and we welcome Babcock’s commitment to work with the Trade Unions on addressing the workload issues.
“As a bottom line we want to ensure that people who want to stay at Rosyth stay, and that Babcock protects it’s highly skilled permanent workforce.”
The run down of work on the carriers highlights the need for the government to make decisions soon on the next generation of surface warships for the Royal Navy, especially as the recent National Shipbuilding Strategy gave support to a modular building programme which would hopefully benefit the Rosyth dockyard.
“These workers are key to the future of the UK’s defence shipbuilding programme,” said Hardy. “We really need the Ministry of Defence to step up to the plate and start the procurement process for both refitting work for the Type 45 destroyers and the new Type 31e frigates.”
HMS Queen Elizabeth will be formally commissioned into the Royal Navy on December 7 after a decade of controversies over cost and logistics.
When then defence secretary Des Browne approved the construction of two new aircraft carriers in 2007, the total budget was £4.85 billion.
Various delays and set-backs mean the Queen Elizabeth and her sister ship, the Prince of Wales, will now cost a total of £14.3bn – including the Lockheed Martin F-35B jets that will fly from them.
The National Audit Office warned in March that technical issues could mean the carrier may not be operational by 2020, as has been promised by the Ministry of Defence. But the MoD said it was committed to ensuring both carriers were fully operational by 2026.
It was reported in 2010 that the coalition government was keen to halt – or at least significantly scale back – the carriers project when it took office due to the rising costs, only to be advised this would cost the taxpayer even more in the long term.