More than 16,000 jobs could be protected by giving a bumper shipbuilding contract for Royal Navy support vessels to a British yard, figures revealed yesterday(MON).
The potential boost is more than double previous estimates and piled pressure on the Tories to award the £1billion deal to UK workers.
Campaigners want the contract for two, possibly three, Fleet Solid Support ships to stay in Britain.
But four out of five firms bidding for the tender are foreign.
Now, a freedom of information request by the GMB union has discovered up to 16,400 jobs could be safeguarded.
The figure is significantly higher than the union’s “cautious” estimate of 6,700 jobs, which was calculated on a different basis last year.
According to the union, an internal Ministry of Defence analysis titled ‘National Ship Building Strategy Assessment of the Effect of Ministry of Defence Shipbuilding and Repair spend on the UK economy’ – obtained by the GMB under the Freedom of Information Act – says official statistics “could be used to estimate employment effects for additional spending in the UK”.
It goes on: “If the MoD decided to spend £500million on a new shipbuilding contract, then these figures would suggest that this would support between an additional 5,800 and 8,200 jobs.”
Experts believe the Royal Fleet Auxiliary contract could be worth £1billion, meaning up to 16,400 jobs would be protected.
Campaigners seized on the revelation to press for the 40,000-tonne ships to be built in the UK.
GMB national officer Ross Murdoch said: “The thousands of UK jobs at stake – not to mention the wider benefit to the economy – make this decision a no brainer for the new Defence Secretary, and we cautiously welcome reports that she is willing to look at this issue again.
“We have a highly-skilled shipbuilding workforce in the UK that is more than capable of making these ships at a fair market price.
“We can’t let our proud shipbuilding tradition be sold down the river if the work goes to artificially subsidised international competitor shipyards instead.”
The vital vessels will resupply the Fleet, including the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, with ammunition, explosives and food.
But the deal has been put out to international tender with companies from Italy, Spain, Japan and South Korea in the running, and a UK consortium also shortlisted.
A decision is due next year and unions have launched the Keep Britain Afloat campaign to demand the contract stays in Britain.
Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt last week fuelled hopes the deal would stay in the UK.
She told the Mirror: “I won’t commit to that today, but I hope I have made it crystal clear that not only do I think we can be competitive in shipbuilding if we get this partnership with industry right, but I also think it’s necessary for us to be able to deliver the Fleet that we want in the future.”