Unions have launched a campaign to save Appledore Shipyard from closure after it failed to win a crucial contract.

GMB union member Matt Roberts says he fears the loss of the latest contract is a huge blow to Appledore Shipyard. Picture: GMBGMB union member Matt Roberts says he fears the loss of the latest contract is a huge blow to Appledore Shipyard. Picture: GMB

Yesterday (Friday) the GMB Union and Unite the Union launched an online petition and plan to organise a mass rally in Bideford in support of the yard.

The unions said owner Babcock has told the workforce it had not won the contract to build an offshore patrol vessel for Malta and instead the work has gone to an Italian yard.

In a joint statement the unions said since January, workers have been temporarily redeployed by Babcock to Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth, which means a daily four hour around trip and some have taken temporary accommodation in Plymouth.

They said: “With no sign of any work still, the situation is becoming more precarious by the day, and there are huge question marks over how many more months this will continue.”

LÉ George Bernard Shaw floating outside of Appledore Shipyard earlier this year. Picture: Allan CollinsLÉ George Bernard Shaw floating outside of Appledore Shipyard earlier this year. Picture: Allan Collins

Babcock continues to try to secure work for the North Devon site.

Research by the unions suggests the loss of the yard could lead to a £2million annual blow to the local economy, in lost taxes and an increase in benefits alone.

Chris Bright, GMB Union acting convenor at the shipyard said: “Members and their families are worried about losing their homes and having to move out of North Devon to find work, if the yard closes.

“Beyond Christmas it’s anyone’s guess what will happen to us. We continue to meet with the company on an ongoing basis.”

Matt Roberts for GMB said the lost contract was a huge blow and felt like ‘a few more nails in the coffin of shipbuilding on the Torridge’.

Heathcliffe Pettifer, Unite the Union regional officer, added: “When you consider that the government’s National Shipbuilding Strategy was effectively written around Appledore, it’s incredible that we are in this position. As a local resident, I know the effect on local businesses this will have and I fear the decline of the area.”

GMB shopfloor representative Jake McLean has worked his way through the yard to become a skilled fabricator and said he hopes there could be a future at the yard for his children and grandchildren.

He added: “It would devastating to lose the shipbuilding skills and history in North Devon. 197 ships have been built here and we don’t want this to be the end. I don’t want to see my children in minimum wage dead end jobs in the future.”

In recent years the yard has built four vessels for the Irish Navy, with the latest floated out of the yard in April this year.

In a statement, Babcock said: “We are disappointed that we did not secure the contract to build an OPV for the Armed Forces Malta (AFM) and are reviewing the implications for our business.”

You can sign the ONLINE PETITION HERE .