A Plan for Jobs in UK Manufacturing
Our economy is being reshaped at an unprecedented pace – but there are also significant opportunities for UK manufacturing to genuinely build back better.
- The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed long held fears over short-termism, failures to invest in training and skills as well as plant, tooling and technology and the off-shoring of component manufacture, leaving a dangerous lack of resilience in UK supply chains.
- The UK’s departure from the single market and customs union demands that we rapidly establish new trading relationships at a global level, while securing investment in UK manufacturing from global corporations and government.
- And perhaps the greatest challenge of them all – the climate crisis – requires comprehensive action without delay if we are to transition our economy in time to meet even the modest targets of the Paris
Accord, while protecting jobs and putting workers and our communities at the centre of any planning for a greener economy.
Unite’s manufacturing members recognise that there is no time to lose in recasting our economy to meet these triple challenges.
The country is gripped by an economic crisis more intense than anything encountered in living memory, as we battle to protect the health of the nation. Throughout the pandemic our shop stewards and officers have worked hard to produce the goods and products we need while providing the services we rely on, negotiating innovative arrangements to protect jobs and create safe workplaces from short-time working to repurposing our factories to produce everything – from ventilators to PPE in support of our NHS.
But much more has to be done. Our competitors have committed far greater resources and long-term support to their manufacturing industries, working in true partnership with businesses and unions in a way that remains unthinkable to our Westminster government.
Today’s advanced manufacturing jobs and our research, design and engineering excellence must sit at the heart of a renewed economy, producing what we need here in the UK while exporting high value product across the globe. We are at the cutting edge of the design and technological developments necessary to green and clean our towns and cities, seas and skies.
Working with Acuity Analysis, Unite has identified seven projects that, with government engagement, will ensure that UK manufacturing continues to play its part in our national story.
- If government focuses immediate-term investment and support on addressing the UK’s poor quality housing and on building the battery and component factories needed to support new electric vehicles, tens of thousands of new, sustainable jobs will be created.
- A renewal scheme for the airline industry will retain our world-class engineers, as they construct the next generation of aircraft powered by hydrogen and synthetic fuels.
- Carbon capture from our heavy industries like steel, ceramics and construction material, is not only climate necessary but alone can create 68,000 jobs over the next 25 years.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. To arrive at these seven schemes, we asked ourselves a simple question: where should government invest in order to create jobs quickly and with the greatest social and climate benefit?
We call these ‘shovel ready’ projects our ‘Magnificent Seven’. The opportunities and return on investment that they will give this country now, and for future generations, are tremendous. These projects deserve support from all those who want our economy back on its feet, our depleted tax base assisted to grow, and hope and opportunity for working people. The full economic analysis on which we base our calculations can be read in Acuity Analysis’ extensive paper here.
2020 has been an abysmal year for jobs. So many have been lost and many will not be recovered. Workers and communities urgently need a plan for jobs. Unite’s manufacturing members have one.
By Steve Turner
Assistant general secretary, manufacturing Unite the union