Union defends defence jobs

Leader of Unite Len McCluskey

Leader of Unite Len McCluskey

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Tens of thousands of skilled jobs are at risk because of an “unpatriotic” defence policy seeing contracts go to the United States, a union leader has warned.

Len McCluskey, (pictured) general secretary of Unite, said 50,000 defence manufacturing jobs had been axed in the past decade, with another 40,000 under threat.

He urged ministers to buy British-made equipment rather than turn to overseas companies under a “value for money” strategy.

He told a Unite conference in Preston that communities across the UK depended on the defence industry for jobs and economic security.

He said: “Spending British taxpayers’ money buying British-built equipment isn’t just good for our companies and our jobs - it’s also good news for the Treasury who get tax revenues back straight away, and for the UK economy as workers employed here spend money in shops, pubs and restaurants here at home.

“You would think that buying British-built equipment for our Armed Forces would therefore be a no-brainer – it’s obvious that buying British-built kit is good for the country.

“So why is this Government planning to double the amount of defence pounds spent in the USA by 2020?”

The Unite leader accused the Conservatives of wreaking “vandalism” on the defence industry. “Incompetent, short-sighted, unpatriotic - today’s government in a nutshell,” he said.

Mr McCluskey said Unite would play its part in Labour’s defence review, including its position on renewing the Trident nuclear missile system, but he stressed the union would back its members employed in the industry. He said he respected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s views on disarmament, but said: “Unite is a trade union and for us, our members, their jobs and their communities must come first.”