Serious questions are being asked whether the UK is fully geared up to profit from the ‘Star Wars’ digital revolution so eagerly being embraced by its economic competitors.
As the prospect of robots marching into the workplace, digitally connected machines, 3D printing, and autonomous vehicles grows ever closer, Unite, the country’s largest union, questions if ministers are prepared for a world where 54 per cent of jobs in Europe are at risk of automation in the next two decades.
The union outlines 13 recommendations to ensure that the UK is up to digital speed in its briefing: A Digital New World – Unite’s Charter for Workers in UK Information Technology and Communications industries.
A key area where government is failing to invest significantly is small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), critical to the country’s information technology and communications (ITC) sectors – the UK is the only country in the G7 not to have a dedicated financial institution dealing with SME financing issues.
Public procurement policy with a total expenditure of £242 billion in 2013/2014 is another area of concern, with the government’s stated aim of at least 25 per cent of procurement coming from SMEs.
The briefing says: “Unite believes that the government should recognise the economic opportunities which are available to the UK economy in using the procurement procedure to purchase goods and services from ITC companies based here.”
Unite national officer for ITC Ian Tonks said: “It is very apt that as people flock to the new Star Wars film, made at Pinewood studios with all that UK digital expertise, that we ask if the UK is ready for the challenges in this sector over the next decade.
“The Unite briefing is aimed as a template to ensure that the UK does not fall behind its global digital competitors in this fast-moving industry environment. We want to know whether ‘the force’ is with government ministers on this issue.”
Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: “The report produced by our ITC reps points the way forward and highlights the need for the UK to get in front on the issue of Industry 4.0 and the massive changes to the world of work anticipated by digital technology over the next few years.”
The ITC sector in the UK employs about 700,000 directly with about 1.3 million support staff.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940.