Swan workers scrap pay obstacle to rescue

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The Independent Online
WORKERS at Swan Hunter, the Tyneside shipbuilder now in receivership, have agreed to scrap a severance pay scheme in the hope of saving the shipyard. The scheme's abolition was a condition laid down by Constructions Mecaniques de Normandie, the only bidder for Swan.

CMN said the deal, which guaranteed thousands of pounds for each worker made redundant, was a liability that threatened the future of the yard. However, it also warned yesterday that other big stumbling blocks remained. The company will not proceed with the purchase without written guarantees from the Ministry of Defence that Swan will be given the same treatment under new ownership in its pursuit of defence orders.

CMN has also said that it cannot buy Swan unless the yard is awarded the pounds 30m contract for refitting the Sir Bedivere landing ship. Fred Henderson, chairman of CMN Support Services in the UK, said more job losses were inevitable unless the Government decided on the contract by the end of this month.

Swan has 660 remaining workers and 238 others laid off. Mr Henderson also said that if it failed to win a smaller contract to refit the Olwen fleet supply vessel, the 238 laid off were likely to be made redundant. A decision on the Olwen is expected from the MoD at the end of this month.

Swan has no work on its books after its remaining frigate contract, due for completion later this year.

In a document issued yesterday, CMN attacked a dirty tricks campaign waged against the Safa brothers whose Paris-based Soffia group bought CMN in 1992. Attempts to discredit the Safas by an unknown party include rumours that they are a front for Iraqi interests or linked to Arab terrorist groups. It is believed the stories are attempts by rival yards to drive Swan out of the market.