The union Unite, has urged Vince Cable, business secretary, and Philip Hammond, transport secretary, to ‘take responsibility and act now to save the UK’s last train manufacturer and 4,000 skilled manufacturing jobs’, as a letter to the prime minister confirms that the government must re-open the Bombardier decision.
The letter from the two ministers is an ‘admission that the government has put Bombardier at grave risk but they attempt to deflect blame away from their own departments for the decision not to award Bombardier a contract to build train carriages’, the union claims.
It was Philip Hammond’s Department for Transport which awarded preferred bidder status to Siemens instead of Bombardier.
‘Instead they urge the prime minister to examine whether Britain is making the best use of EU procurement rules’, Unite said earlier this week.
A review of EU procurement rules – with a view to ensuring UK manufacturing is properly supported – would be welcome, but the government needs to ‘act urgently to save Bombardier in Derby, the UK’s last train manufacturer’.
A long term solution to manufacturing strategy is long overdue but in the short term the government must act now.
Chancellor George Osborne concluded his budget announcement earlier this year (23 March) with the manufacturing mantra:
“We want the words ‘Made in Britain,’ ‘Created in Britain,’ Designed in Britain,’ ‘Invented in Britain’ to drive our nation forward.
“A Britain carried aloft by the march of the makers. That is how we will create jobs and support families.”
The government awarded a contract to build 1,200 new carriages for the Thameslink route to a consortium led by Siemens, where the vast majority of the manufacturing work will be done in Germany.
Unite regional coordinating officer, Mark Young said:
“There is something seriously wrong with the government’s manufacturing strategy. This is the sequel to Sheffield Forgemasters – thousands of jobs are at risk because of the government’s decision.
“Soon the UK – the country that gave the world the railway – may not have the capability to manufacture trains for its own railways.
“At least the government believes that there are other mechanisms to support Bombardier, but we cannot afford one moment’s delay. The government must act now if we are to save our last train maker.
“It is simply unsustainable for the government to claim to support UK manufacturing with one hand and then with the other hand take decisions which potentially wipe out an entire manufacturing sector.
“The country that invented the railways is at risk of losing its ability to manufacture trains unless the government urgently rethinks its decision to award preferred bidder status to Siemens instead of Bombardier.
“The government can reverse this decision and get UK train manufacturing back on track.
“Only a few days ago Vince Cable was expressing how important it was to encourage young people into manufacturing, but the coalition’s decision on Bombardier will mean hundreds of apprenticeships will be lost.”