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Select Committee on Work and Pensions Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union (AEEU) (SHP 4)


  Amicus AEEU represent around 70,000 members in Scotland, of which around 700 work on the Clyde.

Shipbuilding on the Clyde has a long and proud history and many trade union activists, including those from the AEEU, have come from the ranks of shipbuilders. The industry has declined over the past 40 years and is down to three Yards, Scotstoun, Govan and Ferguson's.

The AEEU have consistently argued for their members to adopt flexible working methods and patterns to ensure that productivity increased. This has been necessary if Clyde shipyards were to compete in the global marketplace of today.

The AEEU have bemoaned the fact that the number of commercial (unlike naval) foreign orders have declined over the years and that BAE SYSTEMS now appears to be concentrating on MoD work.

The AEEU welcomed the setting up of the Clyde Task Force and is pleased to acknowledge that a lot of good work has been done on this front. A strategy is in place, which we hope will secure the future of Govan and Scotstoun for the next 10 years. Nevertheless we believe that the company must follow through its commitment to invest £75 million on Clydeside. It is also important that the MoD provides orders for the Clyde.


The Scotstoun Yard, which was formerly Yarrows has been quite successful in winning foreign naval contracts. This has been witnessed by the recent building of two ships for Malaysia and three for Brunei. The Scotstoun Yard has been a successful warship builder for many years both for the MoD and for foreign navies. There is, however, fear amongst the workforce at the Scotstoun Yard that since the take-over of BAE that their work could be transferred to Barrow.


The Govan Yard has a varied history and has had a number of owners over the years and has demonstrated that it can adapt to building a wide variety of ships from container vessels to oil related ships and landing craft. The Govan Yard has entered into the folklore of Scotland and is seen as a bell weather for shipbuilding and heavy engineering and the Scottish economy generally.

The Yard has been pulled back from the brink of closure on a number of occasions over the past few years but the Task Force report acknowledges that it has a future as a centre of excellence for steel fabrication.


Fergusons very rarely figures in the public eye but nevertheless is an important source of employment at the tail of the bank. It can employ up to 500 people or more depending on the contracts. It is a first class shipbuilder and has won many ferry orders based on its reputation for delivering on time and within price.

The Future

There are still redundancies taking place at BAE Systems although the number has been mitigated through negotiation with the trade unions and with the support of the Task Force.

The order book position has improved but we need the MoD to commit itself still further to the Clyde. We were unhappy with the MoD procurement policy, which allowed the contract for new roll-on roll-off ferries to be placed outside the UK.

We are pleased, however, that the MoD awarded landing ships to the Clyde and we are mindful that there is still work coming through for the Type 45 destroyers.

Additionally there are MoD plans to place orders for two new aircraft carriers and these orders should be placed as soon as possible so that we can end the uncertainty hanging over the industry.

The Employees

  The employees have demonstrated that they are adaptable, flexible and prepared to retrain. The old demarcation lines have come down and the trade union representatives now work in partnership with their companies to win new work and to deliver ships on time.

There is an ageing workforce within the Yards and the AEEU believe that this workforce should be infused with young people and therefore we would like to see an expansion of apprentice opportunities.

The Government's Role

We believe that the Government could do a lot more in assisting the Clyde shipbuilders to win commercial work and we also believe that the defence procurement systems should be looked at in order to provide a long-term strategy rather than short-term plans.

As the Task Force said: ". . . the Government should continue to take account of the detailed industrial implications of its procurement decision for naval shipbuilding industry design and integration capabilities (recommendation 8)."

We want to see a holistic approach by the MoD. We must ensure that the MoD and BAE fulfils it commitment to the workers on the Clyde.

April 2002

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