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Mass Rally To Save Appledore

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

UNIONS STAGE MASS RALLY TO SAVE APPLEDORE SHIPYARD

We will not accept the deindustrialisation of our community, and we have already lost far too many skilled well-paid jobs say the unions

Shipbuilding unions GMB and Unite are staging a mass rally in a bid to save Appeldore shipyard

Reports this week suggest a final decision to close Appledore Shipyard could be made by Babcock at a board meeting in November. [1]

GMB and Unite and are calling on everyone who supports a future for the yard, and for British shipbuilding and manufacturing in general, to support the protest.

The rally takes places as follows:

10.30am Saturday October 27

Jubilee Square

Bideford

At 11.00am members of the public and unions will march to Victoria Park, where there will be a rally in support of the yard at 11.30am

Speakers include Council Leader Jane Whittaker along with and union officials and reps.

Appledore's operators Babcock were last week hit by the publication of a mystery report slating their business  which has hit the company's share price.

The joint-unions have written to the company asking them to answer four key Appledore-related questions from the damaging anonymous 'Boatman' report. [2]

The questions are:

1.       The report claims "We understand that Babcock has tried to strong-arm the MoD into putting more work into Appledore with a threat to close the yard. It seems unlikely that this tactic will work given the toxic relationship between the MoD and Babcock". Please can you let us know if the company feels this is an accurate claim? If it's not accurate and truthful please can you set out the company's description of what you are doing, and how the relationship is with the MoD in the view of the company?

2.       The report claims that it could cost Babcock up to "£20m" to close Appledore. Please can you tell us if this is an accurate claim? If it's not accurate what would be the company's estimate

3.       The report claims that Babcock and/or another party have "engaged consultants to find a new owner for Appledore". Can you tell us if this is true? If it is true, why have the unions not been involved? If it's false, should this not be considered? If it's "another party" that has done this, who is the other party and why have you asked them to do this on your behalf?

4.       The report refers to Babcock drawing dividends from Appledore Shipbuilders 2004 Ltd, of £6m and £5m, reducing the "subsidary company's retained earnings from £11.7m to £2.9m. Just as a crisis looms for Appledore, Babcock has raided the piggy bank and left it with almost nothing". Please can th company respond to this claim?

As of October 23 the unions still had not recived a response from the company.

The current situation is a far cry from 2015, when former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne visited Appledore [3] declaring that the South West had been ‘for too long neglected’ and held up Appledore as an example of skilled jobs in the area.

Mr Osborne also stated that ‘the region has backed the Conservatives and now it's time for the payback’ before praising Appledore's work on the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.

Matt Roberts, GMB Regional Organiser, said:

"Reports this week suggesting Appledore could be about to close don’t tell us anything we didn’t already know.

“But this certainly should focus minds, and shows that the unions have been right to raise our concerns publicly for months, [4] and right to lead the community campaign to save these jobs and skills for the future.

"We will not accept the deindustrialisation of our community, and we have already lost far too many skilled well-paid jobs.

“Our members can't all go to Westward Ho! and start selling ice creams.

“We need to work together - politicians, government, the company, unions, other possible operators, and the wider community - to find a way to keep these skilled jobs here in Devon."

"All options should be on the table at this stage, given the severity of the situation.

“The Mayor made a good point that the site has perhaps been too reliant on military work under the Babcock-era. Over the last century, Appledore has been a highly viable commercial yard. Our members stand ready to build any ships whether military, commercial shipping, ferries, or anything else.

“Frankly, they don't care what they build as long as they are in a job".

"If any other investors or operators are willing to talk, I strongly urge them to approach us.

“There may be work out there that did not fit Babcock's business model but could fit someone else's.

“Our members at Appledore are the best in the business at what they do. The Irish ship was so good, the customer came back for more three times.

“Appledore has shown that Babcock can be a more diverse business than being spoon-fed government work, and has got them in the game for the Type 31e frigates. The site has done well for the company."

Heathcliffe Pettifer, Unite Regional Officer said: 

"The government has held up Appledore as an example of what we need more of in the South West. We now need them to back up their words in 2015, and give some short term assistance before these jobs are lost."

"The unions firmly believe the site can have a viable future, but we have a short term problem we need to work through."

ENDS

Contact: GMB Press office on 07958 156846 or at press.office@gmb.org.uk

Notes to Editors:

[1] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2018/10/21/babcock-looks-close-appledore-shipyard-new-contracts-dry/

[2] https://theboatmancapital.com/)

[3] https://www.itv.com/news/westcountry/update/2015-05-22/george-osborne-visits-appledore-shipyard/

[4] http://www.gmbwalesandsouthwest.org.uk/news/appledore-shipyard-on-a-cliff-edge

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