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Manufacturing - key issues

Manufacturing is the lifeblood of any prosperous economy. Unfortunately over the past two decades under both Conservative and New Labour governments the economic prosperity of the UK and Ireland was geared towards the finance and services sector. Manufacturing industry was left to its own devices and on too many occasions we saw well paid, skilled manufacturing jobs lost and never to be replaced.

Following the economic crisis of 2008 in the UK the then Labour government began to recognise the need for intervention and assistance for the UK’s manufacturing sector, however for too many manufacturing companies it was too little too late.

The election of the Coalition government in the UK saw the new Prime Minister and Chancellor indicating that there would be a major shift to rebalance the economy through investment in manufacturing. Indeed the government said that jobs that would be lost in the public services would be replaced by new jobs in the manufacturing sector. Of course this proved to be a cruel hoax and the current government still has no joined up industrial or manufacturing strategy. Manufacturing is still facing a difficult time even though there have been very positive developments in the automotive and aerospace sectors.

In response Unite has produced its own manufacturing strategy, Made in Britain, which sets out the case for an interventionist strategy; a revamping of skills and training; the need for a positive procurement policy based on the purchase of UK manufactured goods; investment in research and development and the green economy etc. Unite has also produced a Charter for UK engineering [published November 2014]. The Labour party is also now developing its policy in regard to manufacturing and the launch of Made In Britain took place in late 2013. In addition Unite has been promoting manufacturing amongst employers and young people to avoid skill shortages for the future and to encourage young people to look at apprenticeships manufacturing as a career.

We have been working with a number of Sector Skills Councils on this issue including SEMTA and COGENT and the Technical Apprenticeship Service and in addition we have been involved in a number of projects including comparing German manufacturing with UK manufacturing and the issue of skills. The TUC along with Unite and the German union IG Metall have produced a document, German Lessons, which can be downloaded here.

In addition our manufacturing sectors work closely with our brothers and sisters in the United Steelworkers in the USA and Canada (LINK) in our global union Workers Uniting.

The Unite manufacturing sectors include Aerospace & Shipbuilding, Automotive Industries, Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, Process and Textiles; Graphical, Paper, Media Information Technology & Communications, Metals (including Foundry) and General Engineering, Manufacturing & Servicing. You can visit them by clicking on the links below.

Unite has a regular blogs on manufacturing on this site and also a Twitter feed on news and comment on manufacturing @unitemanufactur.