Hundreds of workers walked out earlier this week as part of a series of strikes over the next three weeks in protest at plans by the firm to lay off 290 employees by March 2019. Tony McDonough reports
Striking workers at Birkenhead’s Cammell Laird shipyard are are costing the it millions in lost orders and putting more jobs at risk, the company claims.
Hundreds of workers walked out earlier this week as part of a series of strikes over the next three weeks in protest at plans by the firm to lay off 290 employees, around 40% of the workforce, by March 2019 as a number of contracts come to an end.
The GMB and Unite unions say they have out forward a “credible and very reasonable alternative’ to the redundancies which they say will “lead to untold hardship on workers and their families”. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also backed the strike action.
Albie McGuigan, GMB regional organiser, said: “For workers to make a decision to take strike action especially at this time of year demonstrates how angry and frustrated they are at the lack of support from Cammell Laird.”
However, on Wednesday afternoon Cammell Laird chief executive John Syvret claimed the industrial action was “counterproductive” and “undermines our ability to create jobs and work”.
“We are a contracting business, and like any other we have to increase and decrease resource in line with employment legislation to ensure we deliver our obligations and maintain a competitive cost base,” added Mr Syvret.
“This strike action has facilitated a loss of over £1.5m pounds worth of business already, and with growing concerns from other customers more losses are imminent. It may be obvious but put simply, without customers there are no jobs at all. These lost contracts are now being undertaken in other shipyards.”
He pointed out that that since 2008 the company’s shareholders, including property and ports giant Peel, have made more than £93m of investments in the business and its infrastructure and he rejected union claims Cammell Laird was “casualising” its workforce.
“We reject the misinformed claim that we are moving toward casualisation,” he said. “The simple fact is that we are in a contract-driven industry and, following a period of peak work, we are seeing contracts come to an end.
“The trade union claims we are casualising our workforce when we have never even considered zero hours contracts and have restarted one of the biggest apprentice training programmes in Britain with investment of more than £18m in 250 apprentices.”
Mr Syvret said redundancies are unfortunately necessary as contracts are coming to an end and it is not commercially viable to carry such a massive overhead without work.