TRADE unionists and defence workers clashed yesterday over whether Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons system should be renewed.
Defence workers in the GMB union attending its annual conference in Newcastle called for Trident’s renewal, fearing that tens of thousands of highly skilled jobs will be lost if the missile system is ditched.
Davenport shipyard GMB convener Nigel Warn said: “This involves communities all over the UK. It is shipbuilding, our engineering skills. That is what it is all about. You could be talking about 70,000 jobs in direct and indirect labour.
“If they do not go ahead with this then shipbuilding industry will begin to die off and it will have an effect on our communities just like it has in the coalmining industry.”
Convener Eric McLeod from Forsyth said that shipyards on the Clyde employing thousands of people are already working on components for the successor project.
“Without Trident, what is going to happen to those jobs?” he asked.
Tim Griffith from Barrow shipyard argued that hundreds of apprenticeships were at risk, and said that the Trident system was “vital for the UK’s security.”
And outgoing GMB general secretary Paul Kenny ridiculed proposals to diversify the defence industry into other production.
“Are we going to have bakeries and learn to make pies?” he asked.
But Mr Warn told the Star that the Trident debate within the GMB is an historic one and there were “arguments within the union.” Many trade unionists reject the notion that Trident will protect jobs.
Stephen Low, who moved the successful anti-Trident renewal motion at the Scottish Labour conference, said: “Pound for pound, the Trident renewal programme will create fewer jobs than almost any other form of public spending.
“Trident renewal has limited supply chain spin-offs and you don’t get much technology transfer to the wider economy.
“The cost is so vast, it will even pull investment out of other defence manufacturing.
“It’s irrelevent to our real security needs — and will hamper the real renewal we need in our industrial and manufacturing base.”