Terry Waiting speaking about KOFAC

Wed 14th February 2018 at 18.30 - 20.00

Terry Waiting KOFAC

Our speaker on Wednesday 14th February graced a pitiful show of our club members, less than half  in attendance, but it was Valentine’s Day so some maybe had other things to do ! Nevertheless Terry Waiting came to tell us about the activities undertaken by KOFAC – Keep our Future Afloat campaign which he chairs. It is a lobby group dedicated to telling the world and his dog about our area, it’s vital contribution to our nation’s defence and the valuable unique skills we have here.

Terry told us that the group was formed in 2004 as a Trade Union and community lead, non-political organisation seeking to sustain the core workload necessary in Britain’s naval and submarine industry.

KOFAC champions the strategic need to deliver our maritime programs and does so by constant lobbying our country’s members of parliament, defence industry leaders, MOD etc. They visit the Labour and Conservative Party Conferences where they can take central positions to tell their story.

Incredibly the organisation is very lean and runs on an annual budget of £10k, most of which goes in paying for stands at the aforementioned national conferences. Fortunately they do get additional help with accommodation from the trade unions which goes a long way to keeping them afloat !

One of the most powerful messages was made when they produced a map of the supply chain that supports submarine building. It impacts on the entire country, over 1000 companies are involved in 444 towns and cities throughout the land and more importantly 31000 jobs nationally. Even ministers were astounded when they saw that and wondered why they had never carried out such an exercise themselves. Terry told us that some of the trade unions were eager to learn the names of the 1000 companies involved, but that was kept a closely guarded secret.

Terry reminded us of the devastation that took place in Barrow when the yard completed Bulwark, she was the last surface ship and the start of a very thin order book. That resulted in the lay off of thousand and even worse the scattering of skills, apprentices included to the four winds! That was when a unique co-operation between county and town councils, trade unions, members of parliament got together and forged KOFAC. Initially they managed to draw in finance for projects, not related to the shipyard, but at least they kept the locally economy working. Some projects were focussed on mothballing some important aspects of the shipbuilding scene. Not the most dramatic but a necessary exercise to sustain our future, it was also an expensive exercise.

Was KOFAC successful, did they influence opinion, perhaps the current order book and £44billion submarine program says they did. Terry is firmly of the opinion that we need to continue building submarines and utilise the incredible skill set we have and not to seek to do as Jeremy Corbyn suggest, to build cruise ships. Terry said they are built in Italy in the 9 months it would take us to get a design together. That is no reflection on the ability of ship builders in either country, just that the Italians have got cruise line building down to a fine art, likewise our engineers and designers in Barrow are world beaters at submarine contruction.

Finishing with a few relevant statistics, currently we have 11000 working in BAE, 8000 are permanent staff, including a large number of apprentices and 3000 are contractors who ebb and flow as the work dictates, and the wages paid out does a powerful job in our local economy.

After several questions, Terry was thanked for his talk by Ken Riley.