The 16,500 staff in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) division that buys army guns and RAF helicopters were “not properly consulted” on plans to semi-privatise the agency, union leaders have told The Independent on Sunday.
The Government wants the Bristol-based Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) to be run by the private sector, as ministers believe that these companies will provide the commercial nous to buy more submarines and bullet-proof vests than the civil service could within a £14bn budget.
However, the plan is riven by conflict of interest issues and concerns that the private sector does not have the training to protect national security secrets.
Unions fear mass job cuts, which some estimates put at 10,000.
US engineering giants Bechtel and CH2M Hill are leading consortiums to run DE&S under what is known as a GoCo, meaning Government-owned, company-operated.
Bob Rollings, defence group secretary at the Public & Commercial Services Union, said: “The DE&S staff were not properly consulted despite only this spring asking for an ‘initial gate’ business case. Under MoD rules, we should have had a business case from before we went to the bidder stage.”
A senior DE&S insider said staff were “sickened” by the plans and “the great majority of staff care deeply about the moral correctness of what they do and are dismayed at what is happening”.
A spokesman for the MoD said: “There is no requirement to release the business case at this stage, but once the commercial negotiations are complete, we will release the relevant material.”Reuse content