Following the shock announcement that 3,000 skilled workers jobs are under threat, Unite and unions in the CSEU have swung into action to fight to retain the jobs – starting at the Labour Party conference where Unite General Secretary moved an emergency NEC statement demanding that the party fight against the planned jobs losses at BAE Systems.
In addition seven reps from the plants were able to meet with Ed Miliband who pledged support in the fight to save the jobs. The seven workers from BAE – Paul Hadley, Des Graham, Alan Quinn, Mick Darlington, Rory Cartwright, Ian Gent, and Rob Trainor spoke to Ed Miliband, when they arrived at the conference.
Ian Gent, convenor at the Brough site where he was worked since 1973 said: “The fight is on. It will be a hard challenge a battle between the ordinary man and the corporation. We are taking on a global company. But everyone is in absolute agreement. We will fight with vigour. We will pursue this to the end. The workforce at Brough is sending a very clear message – ‘No, you are not going to take away my job.”
Labour MPs have also rallied to support the workers including Alan Johnson who said: “This will be a harder struggle, but we have to exert every ounce of energy into saving this crucial manufacturing plant in the East Riding.”
Even Tory MP and once leadership hopeful David Davis: “We (Alan Johnson and himself) are in complete agreement that we will do everything in our power to advantage the case of the workers and will support whatever strategy to save those jobs one way or another.”
Unite and GMB are saying they need to form a clear battle plan with the first task to obtain BAE’s business case for the job cuts. Ian Gent said the belief among workers is that future Hawk contracts are on the horizon, with Saudi Arabia and Oman said to be considering placing “substantial” orders.
But workers fear the Brough site is being sacrificed so planes can be built cheaper elsewhere, possibly in the United States or India.
“Make no mistake,” Mr Gent said. “There are export deals to be had in the Middle East, but they want rid of Brough. I cannot go into detail, not for the company’s sake, but for the workers, as customers are notoriously twitchy about arms deals.”
Labour leader Ed Miliband said the government must “get stuck in”.
BAE plants in Salmesbury and Warton in Lancashire, and Brough in East Yorkshire will be worst hit by the cuts, losing 565, 843 and 900 jobs respectively.
Research group Oxford Economics estimates that a further 5,700 jobs could be at risk at suppliers and related firms.
Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey told the conference in Liverpool that there was “no way out of the economic crisis without a revived manufacturing sector” and said Mr Miliband’s meeting with shop stewards from BAE on Wednesday “showed which side he was on”. Len McCluskey also said the solution to BAE’s problems was “in ministers’ hands” and they should be prepared to invest in upgrading the Typhoon fighter jet to make it more exportable. “If they don’t, UK taxpayers’ money will be spent on American equipment instead of supporting UK jobs,” he added.
BBC News with video of Len McCluskey speaking at the Labour Party Conference