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Qinetiq strike action could increase risk to British troops

'Profiteers' v unions. Why not get shot of them all?

Pay freezes aren't much fun. But getting shot or blown up is even nastier.

Unless Qinetiq's former government labs here in the UK can somehow make money out of green tech or exports or something, they will carry on shrinking through selloffs and redundancies until they match the new, much smaller MoD test-and-evaluation budget. The company's centre of gravity will continue to shift across the Atlantic to the US, where it actually makes profits, and no amount of industrial action will slow the process down - indeed, strikes and go-slows will probably speed things up.

So management won't care all that much about the unions' planned industrial action. But some people might: namely, British troops fighting and dying in Afghanistan right now.

Late in 2007, having finally decided to sort out the eight Chinook HC3 helicopters it had ordered from Boeing (and then had specially, uniquely custom-ruined so that they were useless) the MoD gave the job to Qinetiq. Qinetiq workers are even now engaged in turning the HC3s into normal HC2s, at some (further) cost to the British taxpayer.

Desperately needed helicopters equal lives and limbs for our fighting boys and girls right now, it's that simple. Particularly in hot-and-high Afghanistan, where the Chinook is especially popular - it being one of the few military transport choppers with enough grunt to lift much of a load there. Every week those Chinooks aren't fixed is another week of unnecessary risks, of operations that can't be carried out for lack of lift, of vital supplies not delivered or sent by dangerous road convoy.

You could say that Prospect's union members are sacrificing our troops' lives - and our national ability to fight in Afghanistan - to get an inflation-busting pay rise, as no doubt the famous "profiteers" of the Qinetiq management would like to. Or you could say that fatcat bosses, while happily pocketing their own bonuses, are crushing workers' rights with no thought for the needs of troops as the union people might prefer to suggest.

Or you might ask why on Earth we didn't just get Boeing to fix up the helicopters - after all they made them - rather than needlessly involving Qinetiq in the process. Then the profiteers and the unions could settle their squabbles among themselves and nobody else would need to worry.

But some people would no doubt have argued for giving the job to British workers at a British company on the grounds that they would naturally offer better support for British forces. An idea which really does seem to need re-examining. ®

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