Ahead of the launch today (Monday) of the government’s plan to develop a modern industrial strategy, the leader of Unite, the biggest union in manufacturing again called upon the prime minister to stand by workers and defend the UK’s access to the European Union single market.
Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite the union which represents hundreds of thousands of workers in manufacturing across the UK, said that as Brexit bears down workers needed solid policies backed by investment, not the PR gestures presented by previous Conservative administrations.
He said that the strategy must provide evidence that the government fully understood not just the probable economic shock of Brexit, but also the disruption to the working world as automation advances into industry.
He also warned that the government’s failure to bring forward a package of support for business in last year’s autumn statement had sent a worrying signal that the government did not grasp the full seriousness of the issues facing the economy’s core industries.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The prime minister’s industrial strategy will reveal just how ready the government is for Brexit.
“The UK’s exit from the EU has the potential to administer a seismic economic shock to our jobs and prosperity, but the response of the government so far has been very concerning – relinquishing our access to the single market, plus corporate welfare and tax cuts as bribes to business are not the ways to build a sustainable economy for all.
“Our economy is too reliant on the City of London. Too many of our towns and communities have been left behind. Too many service sector jobs are simply too low paid to sustain family life. Then there is the further disruption of automation, imperilling the skills and jobs that are the backbone of today’s economy, which needs to be planned for now, not tomorrow.
“That is why we must hear the prime minister set out a bold, strategic vision for industry in Britain, rebalancing our economy with the resources committed to see it through. The promised £170 million for skills training is nowhere near enough to address the chronic skills shortages, and delivering these programmes will be a tall order for an education sector hollowed out by successive Conservative cuts.
“The tests Unite will be setting are simple ones. The government’s purchasing must mean UK firms, products and supply chains are supported. We need a serious plan to address the tens of thousands of engineering jobs we need by 2020, assisting employers with decent apprenticeships to over-train to fill to gaps. And there must be substantial efforts to improve the infrastructure across this country, better connecting our cities and investing in affordable housing.
“Above all, the greatest support the government could provide UK jobs and business is to commit to access to the single market and the customs union. Without this access, manufacturing is going to be seriously hobbled.
“No more of what has gone before, PR-heavy gimmicks like the 'March of the Makers' which promised much and delivered nothing. More than ever we need action, investment and the coalition of all our talents – including the engagement of unions such as Unite who are on the workplace frontline - to deliver our new economy.”
For further information please contact Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869.
Notes to editors
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.