Engineering unions have distanced themselves this week from reports that they were taking sides in a £750m Ministry of Defence contract for the airborne stand-off radar (Astor) system.
The controversy arose when Raytheon, one of the three contenders in the running for the project, claimed it had the backing of unions for its own bid. The unions swiftly denied favouritism.
A spokesman for Raytheon said he was ‘totally amazed’ by statements from unions that appear to be watering down earlier support for its bid. He said the unions lobbied for Raytheon in Whitehall in January.
A letter from Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union (AEEU) general secretary Ken Jackson to a union official at Raytheon’s North Wales plant said the AEEU ‘supports’ a Raytheon campaign to win Astor.
But David-John Collins, press secretary to Jackson, said: ‘We would support any of our members in any company, but in this particular instance we don’t support one company over another.’
John Deans, an AEEU convenor at the Warton plant of British Aerospace a partner in Northrop Grumman’s rival Astor bid said trade unions were ‘angry’ at reports claiming Raytheon had union support. These are ‘totally untrue’, he said.
The MSF and GMB unions both said that lobbying for Raytheon’s team members did not mean they exclusively backed the Raytheon bid.
The Government is expected to make a decision on Astor this month.