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In the past some trade unionists have argued that replacing Trident was essential to maintain high value defence jobs. A CND briefing released today shows the opposite. Scrapping Trident is a key part of the fight for jobs.

Scrap Trident graphic

Over the years, CND has received some of its strongest support from the trade unions. But nuclear disarmament has by no means had their unanimous backing. For some unions the sticking point has been the jobs question, irrespective of the vast costs involved for a very poor rate of return jobs-wise, and the fact that it is weapons of mass destruction that are being produced.

But now the case against keeping Trident for the jobs it brings has totally run into the buffers. New research from CND explodes the myth that replacing Trident will create more jobs for defence workers. On the contrary, it shows that pushing ahead with Trident replacement will destroy thousands of jobs across Britain.

This is not just because spending on Trident comes at the expense of other public spending like health, education and basic community services. It is because the money for Trident will come primarily at the expense of other conventional defence projects and the jobs that support them.

The real game changer has been the decision of the Chancellor George Osborne that the costs of the new system must come out of the defence budget, not from a separate pot of money supplied by the Treasury. This will put huge pressure on a defence budget that is already heavily overspent and overcommitted and now faces cuts of up to 20% per year. This means that over the next ten years the MoD faces a £74bn budget cut, a £36bn deficit on projected capital programmes and a bill exceeding £20bn for the capital costs of Trident replacement.

In other words, the MoD will have no choice but to impose deep cuts in a range of defence projects and axe thousands of defence manufacturing jobs. According to a leaked report in the Daily Telegraph, the projects at risk are the second aircraft carrier, the F35 Joint Strike Fighters, the Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft, armoured vehicle procurement, replacement tankers and supply ships, Chinook and Lynx Wildcat Helicopters and the programme to build Type 26 Frigates.

Also likely is the closure of RAF Kinloss, RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Marham with the the loss of almost 6,000 jobs and the phasing out of 295 aircraft, including 120 Tornado GR4 jets. Cuts in the navy shipbuilding programme could threaten up to 10,000 jobs in shipyards in Portsmouth, Rosyth, Newcastle, Birkenhead and the Clyde with the likely closure of at least one shipyard. Cancellation of aircraft programmes could cause major job losses at BAE Systems at Salmesbury, Warton, and Woodford, AugustaWestland at Yeovil, Marshalls Aerospace at Cambridge and elsewhere.

The report goes on to explain that the defence programmes threatened by these cuts would have a more immediate and far greater impact on jobs than those affected by Trident cancellation which would only be lost from 2016 onwards. In this situation, the vulnerable sites are the BAE shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness, Rolls Royce at Derby, AWE Aldermaston and Burghfield and the Faslane Naval Base.

These are the facts about what will happen to defence projects and thousands of jobs if Trident goes ahead. It doesn’t mean that CND supports for the existing level of conventional defence spending or the 'expeditionary' role of Britain’s armed forces - alternatives to defence spending which can actually create many more jobs are laid out in the report.

In fact, one of the most interesting parts of the report is the section on marine energy. In 2009 the TUC called for a Just Transition to a low carbon green economy, rich in jobs, high in research and development and generating exports. Marine energy has this potential and UK companies are at the leading edge of this technology. Barrow could become a major centre for the design and manufacture of wave and tidal turbines.

If we invest the money saved by cancelling Trident, we can make the UK a world leader in wave and tidal power technology and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in Britain, more than compensating for the jobs lost by cancelling Trident replacement.

Trident Jobs briefingThe report, including an executive summary, is available to download at http://www.cnduk.org/tridentjobs (PDF)

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