The parallel universe of Britain’s jobless figures

The parallel universe of Britain’s jobless figures

20 January 2016

The latest jobless total reveals a parallel universe where the headline figures don’t mirror the jobs tragedy on the frontline of industry, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Wednesday 20 January).

Unite said there is was ‘something very wrong’ in an economy where the jobless total fell by 99,000 this month, while at the same time more than 5,000 highly skilled steel jobs had been lost in recent months from a total UK steel workforce of 30,000.

The union blamed the dramatic shift, since the Tories came to power in 2010, from well-paid, skilled jobs to an economy increasingly featuring low paid, insecure employment with the prevalence of zero hours contracts – the Office for National Statistics (ONS) says that 744,000 people are now on these contracts.

Tata announced more than 1,000 redundancies on Monday, while Sheffield Forgemasters said today that 100 jobs are set to be cut from its 700-strong workforce. This week's raft of job losses in the steel industry will not feed through for some months.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “While any drop in the jobless figures is to be welcome, you don’t have to dig too deep to see that there is an employment parallel universe in today’s UK.

“The job losses in the steel industry are frightening, more than 5,000 since last summer, but the government removes itself from the scene when it comes to taking the vigorous action needed to safeguard Britain’s manufacturing base.

“Unite has repeatedly called for a manufacturing strategy, including an investment bank to provide capital for new projects, so we have a blueprint for the retention and creation of decent jobs for future generations.  

“The jobless figures give further evidence of a parallel Britain with the Midlands seeing only a 0.7 per cent increase in employment in the last year and just 0.1 per cent in the North East, where skilled steel workers who have lost their jobs in Redcar are now being told to accept low-waged bar work or face sanctions.

“The unemployment numbers have fallen slightly and the economic activity rate has increased by 0.1 per cent, but looking at temporary employment, there remains 35 per cent who are temp workers unable to find the permanent job they need.

“At the same time wage growth has only just recovered after the longest period of real cuts and the inflation rate is ticking up.

“All this shows that chancellor George Osborne’s smugness is unmerited and irresponsible and that his economic strategy is imploding in the context of the wider UK economy.”


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. 

  • 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.