This week at the Unite sector conferences in Brighton we will launch our strategy for re-balancing and growing the UK economy by defending and supporting UK manufacturing.
In the last month we have seen thousands of well paid, skilled manufacturing jobs lost in shipbuilding, steel and glass.
These are jobs that under current Coalition policies will be replaced by low paid, low skill service sector jobs.
Unite’s document, ‘Made In Britain’ sets out the case for a robust manufacturing strategy, one which is designed to grow and support the UKs manufacturing base.
The strategy argues for a policy of public procurement to help manufacturing; a new skills eco-system that will attract more young people into top quality manufacturing apprenticeships with transferable skills to avoid skill shortages.
It also argues for decent employment rights, decent pay and conditions and collective bargaining and restrictions on the unfettered use of precarious agency work.
Unite has developed the strategy by consulting with our members in manufacturing and taking account of the views of a range of industry bodies.
Despite George Osborne’s claim that the UK is on “on the path to prosperity” - based on a small improvement in growth in the last quarter, any recovery feels a long way off for many workers in manufacturing.
The reality for thousands of working families is that decent jobs are still hard to come by; one million young people are still out of work and jobs that are on offer are short term, precarious agency jobs.
Of the 0.8% increase in growth in the last quarter - 0.6% of that increase again came through the service sector.
Manufacturing figures show we are still 9% below where we were in 2008 and if you take out transport manufacturing (which includes our successful automotive sector) from the equation, manufacturing output is around 13% lower than it was in 2008.
Despite talking up the ‘recovery’ and talking about re-balancing the economy the Coalition lacks any long term strategic plan to make the decisive shift away to the manufacturing sector.
The Tories and the Lib Dems are once again relying on the services sector for growth, with weak employment rights, long working hours, low pay and precarious employment. They are taking their traditional path to growth – increasing house prices and consumer borrowing, rather than borrowing by companies for future investment. Economists are predicting that a third of all future growth will be in London.
Successful economies don’t work like that. Take a look at Germany, with strong employment protections, decent working conditions, where workers have a say in what happens in their companies and where the state helps and protects its manufacturing base.
‘Made In Britain’ is also aimed at influencing Labour in developing its manufacturing strategy.
Among the ten key recommendations to rebalance the economy Unite sets out the need for:
• an interventionist strategic manufacturing policy with a Minister for Manufacturing - with a seat in the Cabinet.
• a well funded strategic investment bank
• an interventionist public procurement policy.
• a new eco-skills system providing high quality apprenticeships
• the need to defend UK manufacturing in the way they do in Germany and elsewhere through a strategic industrial strategy.
Remaining in the EU is also crucial for UK manufacturing. The Tories have this week once again called into question the UKs continuing membership of the EU. ‘Made In Britain’ argues that the internal Tory row is damaging the UKs long term manufacturing interests and manufacturers were right to hammer the idea that leaving the UK was an option.
In the coming weeks Unite will be engaging with our members and our activists, the department of Business, Innovation and Skills, Labour Shadow Ministers, MPs and employers to argue for our a real alternative strategy to rebalance, build and grow UK manufacturing to make sure we don’t face the catastrophe of 2008 ever again.