A new strategy to help save UK manufacturing

Unite has launched a new strategy to help save UK manufacturing, writes Assistant General Secretary Tony Burke.


Unite has launched a new strategy to help save UK manufacturing, writes Assistant General Secretary Tony Burke

Called ‘2020 Vision – Unite Strategy For Manufacturing’, the policy argues a powerful case on how to revive and rebuild the UK’s manufacturing sector over the remainder of the decade.

The strategy highlights the importance for the UK economy to have a robust and skilled manufacturing base – one that will provide the foundation for the Labour party to build an interventionist strategy on which to fight any future election.

Let us not forget that in 2009, New Labour was brought shuddering to its senses by the financial crash and quickly set about establishing a belated interventionist strategy – introducing among other things the car scrappage scheme; driving the Regional Development Agencies to win new overseas investment; and help with ‘soft loans’ to strategically important companies such as Sheffield Forgemasters.

The coalition leadership is doing more damage to UK manufacturing than any previous Conservative government. They have no plan to revive manufacturing, no idea on how to re-balance the economy and promote manufacturing.

Indeed they scrapped the RDAs and the Forgemasters loan; stood back and watched Bombardier, our last trainmakers, lose the Thameslink contract to Germany; and are putting skilled jobs at risk through defence procurment decisions that leave 3,500 BAe Systems jobs at risk.

The UK has some fantastic manufacturing companies with highly skilled and dedicated world-class workforces, but George Osborne’s savage austerity measures are crippling consumer demand meaning we are in no fit shape now to weather the global economic storm or a double dip recession – all this against the background of the UK being the seventh largest manufacturer in the world with a contribution of £140 billion a year to the economy.

Manufacturing contributes 55% of all exports and 74% of business research and development in the UK is undertaken by manufacturing companies. All this is being put at risk by the lack of a clear interventionist policy. The only answer the coalition has is to attack employment rights – with Nick Clegg and Vince Cable enlisted once again to do the dirty work.

They are re-heating failed 1980s-style solutions to “job creation”. Few jobs, if any, will be created by 1980s-esque Enterprise Zones or rehashed YTS schemes for unemployed young people – forcing them into eight-week long, dead-end jobs.

Not one single job will be created by making workers have to work two years before they can qualify not to be unfairly dismissed and jobs won’t be created by the proposal for employers to be able to have a “protected conversion” with a worker about their futures – the “fit in or f**k off” culture.

What Unite is offering is a comprehensive plan which we believe Labour should begin to adopt.

These include:

• Building a framework of policies to defend strategically important industries such as Bombardier and BAe Systems;

• Targeted support for SMEs to help them invest and grow – unlike know where they are being starved of cash by uncaring banks;

• Better use of government purchasing power to secure UK manufacturing jobs;

• Delivery of a new skills and education framework to meet industry needs to avoid skills shortages;

• A national strategic investment bank for industry;

• A level playing field to deliver fair pricing for energy and legislation that promotes transparency and support for all stakeholders in manufacturing including the workforce.

Thess policies form the basis of a plan to revive manufacturing. Unlike the over-reliance that created wealth for a small elite, manufacturing creates wider employment and generates wealth to the 99% not just the elite.

Labour must learn the harsh lessons of its own over-reliance on the financial and service sector – it needs to begin to develop an interventionist manufacturing strategy that working people will support and vote for.

See also:

Osborne has put Britain in an economic death spiral: Here’s how to break outWilliam Bain MP, November 14th 2011

Ignore Osborne’s spin; a jobs recession is inevitableTony Dolphin, November 1st 2011

Forget Grayling’s excuses: Record joblessness is solely the fault of this governmentRichard Exell, October 12th 2011

UK growth down as IMF warn deficit reduction should not be at the expense of growthShamik Das, October 5th 2011

Gideon’s grotesque attempt to blame workers’ rights for unemploymentRichard Exell, October 3rd 2011

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24 Responses to “A new strategy to help save UK manufacturing”

  1. Anonymous

    Please note that New Labour destroyed twice as much manufacturing as Thatcher. After spending my entire career as an engineer working in manufacturing in the UK and around the world I have one comment on the above. The only way in which government can help manufacturing is to ensure that the UK is an attractive and profitable place to do it. That means good infrastructure, good skills and low costs. UK demand is completely irrelevant, 80% of cars and almost all aerospace go abroad. Other than that government just needs to get out of the way and the very last thing that is needed is “bright ideas” from the dinosaurs in the unions.

  2. Dr John Lever

    A new strategy to help save UK manufacturing? http://t.co/RY1OhKma

  3. Political Planet

    A new strategy to help save UK manufacturing: Unite has launched a new strategy to help save UK manufacturing, w… http://t.co/9yYT6swv

  4. Laura Milsom

    Calling UK manufacturers! Do you agree with this? http://t.co/kzznllHt

  5. Ashraf Choudhury

    A new strategy to help save UK manufacturing http://t.co/612tiLft @leftfootfwd #UniteTheUnion

  6. Matt

    To be fair to Tony, he placed blame on New Labour as well as the current government. Party politics doesn’t work particularly well in this area, UK manufacturing has been in constant decline since the early 80s. This has as much (if not more) to do with the failures of the short-termist UK business model as inadequacy on the government’s part.

    The idea that if government would just step aside and let manufacturing business flourish is ludicrous when you look at the pathetic performance of UK investment either in terms of early stage development or R&D more generally. And to suggest that UK businesses are saddled with red tape doesn’t stand up when we look at manufacturing success in more highly regulated nations like Germany and Japan. We need a fundamental change in how we invest in and nuture production industries. Most of all we need a change in how we finance and grow industries over the long term. Something UK business leaders and banks have been shockingly bad at (yes, really, UK banks in being shit shocker!) Government has a role to play and some key levers to pull, not least its own procurement which could be deployed far more strategically.

    I think its great that Unite are putting forward a set of proposals and stimulating the debate. I’d also highly recommend looking at IPPR’s excellent report ‘The Lost Origins of Industrial Growth’, which you can get here: http://www.ippr.org/publications/55/8240/the-lost-origins-of-industrial-growth

  7. Matt

    I’d add that, given the failures of UK banking in providing long term finance for British industry, Unite’s proposal for a national investment bank for industry is by far the most important of their strategy. It’s sick to think of the money lost by banks playing roulette in derivatives markets that could have been invested in real businesses instead (real businesses that is who were deemed too much of a risk … you can’t help but laugh really).

  8. Jamie

    A new strategy to help save UK manufacturing http://t.co/rDlAali4

  9. David Taylor

    A new strategy to help save UK manufacturing: http://t.co/MkrAFHjk by @UniteTheUnion’s @TonyBurke2010

  10. Rei Murasame

    RT for the late risers: A new strategy to help save UK manufacturing: http://t.co/MkrAFHjk by @UniteTheUnion’s @TonyBurke2010

  11. Jeni Parsons

    RT @leftfootfwd: A new strategy to help save UK manufacturing http://t.co/j0wouQ9h

  12. Man in a Shed

    Which political party over saw the greatest ever decline in UK manufacturing over 13 years ? ( Hint they are now 90% funded by the Unions ).

    More back to the 70’s picking winners insanity ( with the corresponding political corruption like the loan to Longbridge before a recent general election but on steroids ) funded by bankrupting the state is just the sort of insane madness that will keep you in opposition, where you so richly deserve to be.

  13. S Henderson

    “More back to the 70’s picking winners insanity” — this is precisely what David Cameron has proposed today… a £180m ‘Biomedical Catalyst Fund’ (amongst other beanos for pharma) to pick life science companies for investing government cash.


    They have also continued to promote the IT hub around silicon roundabout near Old Street, investing government cash and giving special visa arrangements for companies there.

    Unite are simply suggesting similar for other industries…does that really make them dinosaurs? Do you really really ..if you look deep within your soul still believe that The City, or the free market are brilliant at allocating capital to the right projects. Didn’t we try that and didn’t they spunk all that investment on empty commercial property and CDOs?

    And isn’t picking winners and Industrial Policy exactly what the Germans have done so well. Is that really something we need less of?

  14. Carbern Flanges

    RT @leftfootfwd: A new strategy to help save UK manufacturing http://t.co/swmEP1g6

  15. Matt

    Ah, the old picking winners line. Virtually every major global manufacturer has been the product of government intervention. Are you arguing that UK government has played no part in the success of Rolls Royce or BAE Systems? Recent investment by Jaguar Land Rover was facilitated by public sector support through the West Midlands Regional Development Agency (before it was abolished). Look at the development of manufacturing in the USA, Japan, Germany and South Korea and tell me that these were all the products of flourishing private sector entrepeneurship with no government interventions.

  16. Unite London&Eastern

    See blog on @leftfootfwd: A new strategy to help save UK manufacturing http://t.co/j42H1sm1 by Unite Assistant General Sec @TonyBurke2010

  17. Newsbot9

    No, that’d be the Tories gerrymandering the way to permanent control with their minority of the population.

  18. Man in a Shed

    Fall in employment in Manufacturing ( guess when greatest ) http://tutor2u.net/economics/content/essentials/manufacturing_industry_in_uk_clip_image004_0000.gif

    Fall in balance of manufactured goods balance of trade ( guess when greatest ) http://tutor2u.net/economics/content/essentials/manufacturing_industry_in_uk_clip_image008_0000.gif

    You can make an argument about added value rising – but that would seem calous in terms of employment and the decline of our manufacturing position wrt imports etc.

  19. Man in a Shed

    Like MITI in Japan – oh hold on that’s part of the reason they’ve been sunk for the last decade.

  20. Newsbot9

    So you’re not even trying to defend the gerrymandering. Well, good, you realise that it’s totally indefensible.

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