CAMMELL Laird's chief executive has issued a stark warning to striking workers and trade unions that their action is "risking livelihoods of the entire workforce and driving customers away".

Members of Unite and GMB are walking out for the next three weeks at the Birkenhead shipyard over plans to cut around 300 jobs which unions say is 'unnecessary' as the company won contracts to maintain Royal Navy ships.

Laird's boss John Syvret CBE said that the industrial action risked the livelihoods of the entire workforce, many of whom are against it.

He said: "Cammell Laird remains committed to being a prime job and wealth creator for Merseyside families and businesses.

"It is important for the trade union and all associated to note that we have generated more than £355million for the UK economy in the last five years.

"This counterproductive strike action only undermines our ability to create jobs and work.

"We are a contracting business, and like any other we have to increase and decrease resource in line with employment legislation to ensure we deliver our obligations and maintain a competitive cost base.

"This strike action has facilitated a loss of over £1.5million pounds worth of business already, and with growing concerns from other customers more losses are imminent.

"It may be obvious but put simply, without customers there are no jobs at all.

"These lost contracts are now being undertaken in other shipyards."

Mr Syvret also rejected trade union claims the company's shareholders are not investing in the company.

"The company's shareholders have made more than £93million of investments in the business and its infrastructure since 2008 in order to compete in a global commercial market.

"The latest example of this investment is evidenced by Cammell Laird winning the £150m Sir David Attenborough polar research vessel against international competition.

"We need to deliver this ship to our customer who placed their trust in us, and we are determined to deliver on this promise and need the effort and commitment from all.

"Without this colossal investment by shareholders in Cammell Laird we would never have returned this site or this brand to the international stage."

Mr Syvret totally dismissed trade union claims the company is 'casualising' its workforce.

He said: "The simple fact is that we are in a contract-driven industry and, following a period of peak work, we are seeing contracts come to an end.

"The union claim of casualising our workforce when we have never even considered zero hours contracts and have restarted one of the biggest apprentice training programmes in Britain with investment of more than £18million in 250 apprentices which underpins our commitment to our workforce and local communities.

"Moreover, we have consistently grown our core workforce beyond the projections given to the trade union over the last circa 10 years.

"We have been transparent with the unions and our workforce sharing our ambition and diversification strategy with its intent being to maximise growth and opportunity for all."

Mr Syvret said redundancies are unfortunately necessary as contracts are coming to an end and it is not commercially viable to carry such a massive overhead without work.

"We remain optimistic for future growth and have major ambitions to land huge contracts with the Ministry of Defence including the £1.25 billion contract to build five Type 31e Frigates.

"We call on the union to end this corrosive and hugely disruptive strike action which only panders to damaging stereotypes about Merseyside and get behind the business as we seek to win more work.

"If the trade union wishes to frustrate the use of European Employment legislation which is the only way businesses can manage surge or shortfalls in demand, it is impossible to see how Cammell Laird or any other business can operate and grow in the future.

"Our strategy and commitment to grow is clear to all, which has been underpinned by Peel and other shareholder investments, not bank debt.

"It is absolutely essential that we maintain investor support, by providing a reasonable return on their investments when

profits allow."

Unite regional officer Ross Quinn said: "Cammell Laird bosses should be in no doubt of the determination of the workforce to defend their jobs and take a stand against these unnecessary job cuts that could see people out of a job before Christmas."

Albie McGuigan, of the GMB, said: "This wave of redundancies is completely unbearable. It would lead to untold hardship on workers and their families."

The strike action is supported by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who tweeted yesterday: "Solidarity with @unitetheunion and @GMB_union members at Cammell Laird shipyard.

"They're starting three weeks of industrial action to save their jobs as bosses undermine skilled workers and job security.

"Labour stands with you. #TurningTheTideOnCasualisation."

Birkenhead MP Frank Field also said that there is a 'sense of urgency' in safeguarding hundreds of jobs at Cammell Laird.

He told the Globe: "The sure-fire way of being able to do so is to keep bidding for and winning major shipbuilding orders.

"I am battling hard to support the yard on this front.

"I have been to Downing Street to make the case both for Laird’s to be awarded a contract to build new frigates for the Royal Navy, and crucially for the process of determining the new Mersey Ferry order to be speeded up.

"I am active every single day in trying to help secure these vital orders and, crucially, to save these many hundreds of jobs."

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