Union members steam into Parliament to save Bombardier jobs

by - 13th October 2011, 8.21 GMT

Scores of union members yesterday attended a rally at Westminster to hammer home the message that thousands of vital manufacturing jobs are at risk over the betrayal of Bombardier.

It was standing room only in the wood-panelled committee room at the House of Commons as speakers protested at the decision not to award the Thameslink contract to the nation’s last train builder, in Derby.

Tyehimba Nosakhere GMB regional officer responsible for Derby, said the campaign had a wider significance.

“The government has let down the people not only of Derby but of this country,” he said.

“They have made it clear they expect a cut in public services, and the private sector will fill the gap.

“But the people working in Derby we are trying to support are everyday ordinary people who are not trying to be rich, they are just trying to support their families on a day-to-day basis.

“They have had their futures ripped from them, yet government ministers are saying ‘We can’t do anything to help you, but we expect you to be part of the Big Society’ – it is an absolute disgrace.

“If we can’t look after Derby we can’t look after anywhere else, the government has let us down and if we want to change the situation we have to stand up and show the government, regardless of how they do the dirty on Derby and the rest of the country.”

Mick Roberts, a Unite member who works at Bombardier’s Crewe site, said the 300 people working on train maintenance feared a knock-on effect there.

He told UnionNews: “We are exporting a prestigious train order for the UK and allowing  another country’s manufacturing base to benefit from it.

“The government has said they want to back Britain, yet we have a factory ready, willing and able to fulfil this £1.4bn order and they are not being given an opportunity to do it.”

On the day when a further rise in unemployment was announced, Bombardier worker Darren Barber said employees were already getting redundancy letters, including some who had been with Bombardier for more than three decades.

The unions warn 3,000 jobs are at risk at UK Bombardier, and up to 10,000 across the nation in the supply chain.

The meeting was addressed by a series of union leaders, including RMT General Secretary Bob Crow and Unite Assistant General Secretary Diana Holland, as well as climate change campaigners and MPs.

They included Hayes and Harlington Labour MP John McDonnell, who chairs the RMT’s Parliamentary group, and said they had to “eyeball” Ministers and MPs, and put pressure on Liberal Democrats within the coalition.

“They have a job to do – to protect jobs – otherwise it is an act of betrayal, they are betraying us, our kids and our future.”

Veteran Derby MP Margaret Beckett, who chaired the meeting, said it had been a self-inflicted injury to award the contract to Siemens, and Transport Secretary Philip Hammond had made a choice, which he could change.

Some of those present later had an unexpected chance to “eyeball” Hammond when they spotted him preparing to do a TV interview near Westminster, as they waited for their coach to lead.

They jumped off the coach and had an amicable 10-minute discussion with him, putting their case, while he told them the government was working with the management to see what they could do.