Rebalancing the UK economy: A renewed manufacturing strategy

Rebalancing the UK economy: A renewed manufacturing strategy

24 September 2013

By Tony Burke, Unite assistant general secretary

Ed Balls in his speech to conference yesterday praised the renaissance in the motor industry.

He was right to do so, but make no mistake Unite was at the centre of negotiations. Unite members make up the workforce.  A workforce of skilled, dedicated workers and proof positive, if any was needed, that strong unions are good for the economy and society as a whole.

So when Jaguar Land Rover announced the creation of 800 production jobs at its plant in Solihull and shadow cabinet members praise the company let's give credit where credit is due.

And I'm the first person to acknowledge that one of the reasons why the automotive industry has been a success story is because it was a Labour government who intervened directly to help the industry which was then in desperate straits.
Initially the new Jaguar Land Rover jobs will be on one-year contracts, but we will fight to convert them to full-time, well paid jobs.

That's what is needed for a functioning economy. Well paid jobs so people can contribute.  Not austerity and the added burden of high utility charges, expensive consumer goods and low wages.  It's a contradiction in terms.

And today’s promise by Ed Miliband to freeze energy prices until 2017 will go some way to helping ordinary people who are suffering.

Only this government can imagine that having a society that is massively unequal will get the economy growing.

George Osborne and his allies in the media are crowing that “Britain is booming".

Well we want to see an economic recovery, but we’ll believe it when it is one that we can all feel.
When skilled jobs are plentiful and apprenticeships are available to all our young people.  Then we can believe it.  When Ed in his speech said that if a company wants a contract they have to provide apprentices that too is welcome.

Because the reality is that we have millions of people applying for low paid, low skilled, precarious jobs and a million young people out of work.
Yes, there has been welcome news in regard to manufacturing.
And manufacturing figures are better - but we are still bumping along the bottom.

As Prof Robert Skidelsky from Warwick University wrote in the Guardian back in August, Britain's economy is still 3.5 per cent smaller than it was in 2008.

The Tories  inherited an economy that was beginning to grow after the economic crash.  And this Tory led coalition government has spent the last three years with the collusion of the Lib Dems wrecking it.

Its  a double whammy. First the crash and then austerity from a government that wants to shrink the state.

We are still overdependent on the financial and services sectors.  It's as if there is collective amnesia. Economic failure was made on the trading floors of Walls Street and Canary Wharf.
There can and should be a better balance.  We have the skills that built the Airbus 350, and ensured that the new Bentley SUV is to be built in Crewe, here in the UK.
In a few weeks’ time Unite will launch its manufacturing strategy.
It is based on investment, procurement, productivity and skills.
Unite argues that what is needed is a permanent shift towards the manufacturing sector with a well funded investment bank, investment in skills, research and development, the green economy and the latest technology.

When we look over to Germany with its manufacturing and export led recovery we know we have the skills and commitment to compete. A future Labour government must not hesitate to put the conditions in place for a sustained economic recovery that isn't just for the one per cent but for all of us.

What do you think?  Email us at or tweet @UnitePolitics.