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Chief political correspondent John Morrison
"The fate of the yard has become a huge political issue"
 real 28k

Business correspondent Hayley Millar reports
"The bottom line is competitiveness"
 real 28k

Union spokesman Danny Carrigan
"We will carry on lobbying"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 12 April, 2000, 20:02 GMT 21:02 UK
Unions support ferry compromise
BAe Systems yard on the Clyde
The Govan yard will run out of work in the summer
Union leaders have said they would back a compromise deal in the fight to win a vital ferry contract for the former Kvaerner shipyard in Glasgow.

The yard, operated by BAe Systems, is battling to secure the 200m order from the Ministry of Defence, but a German rival is reported to have undercut its bid by up to 50%.

Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted there was still ''everything to play for'' in the placing of a contract.

During Prime Minister's Question Time, he said: ""I would stress that no decision has been taken at all, contrary to some of the speculation in the media."

A possible compromise would be to split the work between Govan, which employs 3,000 people, and other UK yards.

Tracey White, assistant secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), said any arrangement that "bridged the gap" and kept the yard going would be welcome, as other orders were in the pipeline.


Kvaerner metalworker
The work could be divided between yards
"The ideal solution would be to get the full order. Whatever happens we need to be sure the government actively and practically recognises the need to retain capacity in the short term," she said.

"There seem to be discussions now about splitting the order up. "We are in active discussion with the Scottish Executive and Scottish Office about what can be done in the context of what the MoD is looking at in terms of offers on the table to secure jobs in Scotland.

"The Govan yard is not the only yard in the UK looking for orders."

She said the current government had listened carefully to the unions' arguments.

The contract for six roll-on roll-off ferries is worth 200m, but could create 1bn in spin-offs and refits.

'Very important industry'

Earlier, Scotland's First Minister, Donald Dewar, said there was "a great deal of action behind the scenes".

Mr Dewar, speaking to the BBC from Japan, said: "I take very seriously the future of shipbuilding.

"I don't think it's going be a growth industry of the future, but it's a very important industry of the present and we will do everything we can to maintain it."


Donald Dewar
Donald Dewar: "Great deal of activity"
Mr Dewar added: "There is a great deal of action behind the scenes and discussions to see if we can find a way through these difficulties.

"I am coming very closely in touch with John Reid and with my colleagues in the UK Government.

"Of course we will be doing all we can. It isn't an easy situation and none of us enjoy the difficulties the workforce is facing."

John Reid, the Scottish Secretary, insisted that no decision had been taken on where the order would go and blamed "grotesque misreporting" in the media for distorting the facts.

He said a decision was still some weeks away and that, until then, he would be fighting to make sure the yard was treated fairly.

Westminster briefing

Govan Labour MP, Mohammad Sarwar, met with BAe directors in Westminster on Wednesday evening to discuss the situation.

He also called on all MPs with constituents who work at the yard to lead the fight in their own areas.

"Now is the time for people across Scotland to show their support," he said

"I'm asking MPs with constituents employed by BAe Systems to hold street stalls across the country for the next four Saturdays. We need as many people as possible to sign our petition letter expressing total support for the Govan yard."

BAE Systems Govan is the chosen builder for the Sealion consortium bid, with the Scotstoun sister yard as outfitter.

The MP plans to hold a mass rally in Govan next month then deliver the petition to the Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon.

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See also:

12 Apr 00 | Scotland
Yard economic disaster threat
11 Apr 00 | Scotland
Media blamed in Govan contract row
09 Apr 00 | Scotland
Dewar urged to enter Govan row
29 Mar 00 | Scotland
Blair pressed on shipyard contract
24 Feb 00 | Scotland
Yards state ferry case
18 Jan 00 | Scotland
Unions seek shipyard support
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