UK manufacturing’s leaders have joined forces to urge Boris Johnson to put rebuilding the sector at the heart of his roadmap, set to the announced on February 22, to kickstart the UK’s recovery and create desperately needed jobs.
The UK’s leading manufacturing union, Unite, and the main manufacturing trade federations – the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the Chemical Industries Association and the ADS group, which represents the aerospace, defence, security and space industries – set out their calls in a letter to the Prime Minister, published today (Thursday, February 11).
With the economy at its weakest in over 300 years, unemployment set to rise further and the outlook challenging, they reinforced the ‘tremendous opportunities’ manufacturing presents for increased trade, job and skills creation. They also set out its potential to deliver on both the government’s ‘levelling up’ promise and the country’s urgent need to green the economy.
However, the manufacturing bodies and Unite also highlighted the need for stability for the sector while it adapts to the economic challenges and the UK’s new post-Brexit trading environment. This includes an extension of the job retention scheme, support for industrial research and development and the creation of a competitive business environment for jobs and skills.
In the letter, the federations and Unite write: “The Covid-19 pandemic and our changing trading relationship with the rest of the world remind us that a robust, home-grown UK manufacturing sector really does matter.
“To deliver this, we need to build new markets, but so too we must build on these shores, able to provide our own componentry and investing proudly in our UK technology, reducing the reliance on imports and the fragility of the UK-based supply chain exposed by Covid-19. This can be achieved if we work together, uniting the government with employers and the workforce on a programme for recovery.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey commented: “2020 was a year that destroyed jobs. Unite’s members and workers across the country are desperate to hear that the government has a plan to make 2021 a year to save and create jobs. We urge the prime minister and his cabinet team to heed the calls from unions and business alike to work with us as partners to recover the economy.”
Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing Steve Turner, who coordinated the joint letter on behalf of the union, added: “There are over 800,000 manufacturing workers in this country, and hundreds of thousands of related jobs in support sectors. Manufacturing workers and businesses are in every community in the country and have the skills needed to power us to recovery.
“In order to be in the position to deliver for the country, the sector needs stability while it adapts to the new supply chain realities that come with our exit from the EU and the suppressed demand caused by this health and economic crisis.
“We urgently need to hear that the jobs retention scheme will be extended, in line with that of our competitor nations, so that we can preserve skills, workers and planned investment.
“The case for government support to help crucial industries achieve changes for the good of the country, and indeed the world, was proven in the speed at which vaccines have been developed.
“On February 22, Boris Johnson has the opportunity to harness that same incredible spirit of cooperation between state and business when he announces his ‘roadmap forward’.
“The prime minister must provide a roadmap not just out of lockdown, but a roadmap that includes manufacturing as a driver of economic recovery and growth that will help deliver a more sustainable and greener future for everyone.
“The twin crises of Covid job losses and the climate emergency are here now – there is no time to waste. By supporting manufacturing – which will provide the green energy, homes, industry, vehicles and aircraft we so desperately need – the government can stop and reverse the loss of skills and decent jobs in the industry while protecting the planet.”