Proposals by defence giant Babcock to close its site in Colchester, Essex, with the threat of 55 job losses, has ‘exposed’ the company’s shortcomings, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Monday 6 August). 

Unite called for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to take back ‘in house’ the Babcock Defence Support Group (DSG) facility which repairs and maintains a range of army vehicles including Land Rovers. It also delivers field generators and maintains the army’s ceremonial gun carriers.

Unite said it would be making strong representations on behalf of its 37 members during the 30-day consultation period. Operations at Colchester are due to cease on 31 December.

This latest twist comes hard on the heels of the call by Unite last week for the DSG ‘tanks’ repair’ contract to be taken back under the MoD umbrella, after the plug was pulled on a proposal by Babcock to become a ‘strategic support supplier’ (SSS) for the maintenance and availability of a number of different vehicle types.

Babcock paid £140 million for DSG in 2015 and has yet to make a profit from its purchase. Since 2015 about 500 staff have lost their jobs at DSG, which also has sites at Ashchurch, Bovington, Catterick, Donnington, Leconfield and Warminster.

Unite regional officer Michelle Cook said: “The Colchester announcement, with 55 jobs under threat, has raised serious concerns amongst employees at other DSG sites, fearful that they may be next on the never-ending conveyor belt of job losses. 

“Babcock seems trapped in a downward spiral of its own making. It is not generating a profit on the DSG contract, so it is culling staff to save costs. Fewer staff means it is unable to hit targets with the knock-on effect of more job losses. 

“Unite is angry that its DSG members are expected to pay for Babcock’s myriad of shortcomings with their livelihoods. DSG employs highly skilled and experienced workers who provide safety critical services to protect UK troops.

“We will be making strong representations on behalf of our 37 Colchester members during the consultation period at what is a very worrying time for them and their families.” 

Unite national officer for the MoD Jim Kennedy said: “It is becoming increasingly evident that the Babcock bosses are floundering badly, having paid over the odds for the DSG in 2015.

“We believe that it is in the interests of the taxpayer and national security that MPs ask some searching questions about the Babcock DSG contract when parliament is sitting again in the autumn.

“Unite is calling for DSG to be returned to MoD ownership to ensure that the skills and services of the workforce are maintained and that confidence in the organisation can be restored to pre-privatisation levels.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065. Email: shaun.noble@unitetheunion.org 

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.