Unite’s new Manufacturing Strategy won praise from MPs yesterday (November 29), with the document being hailed as a “robust and credible plan” by shadow ministers.
MPs contrasted the strategy’s positions on Brexit, the skills crisis and the vital role trade unions have in bringing about a manufacturing renaissance with the government’s “thin on the ground” Industrial Strategy – published this week.
“Shaping the Future of Manufacturing” was launched in Parliament, where MPs and other guests heard from Unite reps from across the manufacturing sectors involved in drawing up the policies.
The launch was attended by more than 20 MPs, including shadow chancellor John McDonnell, shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, shadow defence minister Wayne David and shadow secretary of state for international trade Barry Gardiner.
The document – which lays out plans to create jobs through investment, plug the skills gap, encourage reshoring, make the UK a global leader in digital technology and stimulate manufacturing growth – was described as “powerful” by Long-Bailey.
Other Labour politicians also expressed their backing.
Liz McInnes MP said her background as a Unite rep means “I know that the Labour Party supports industry”, while McDonnell said that he and many other Labour MPs are touring workplaces to speak directly to people about their issues.
Criticism was levelled at the government’s rudderless approach to manufacturing.
Shadow defence minister Wayne David said, “It’s astonishing how blind the government is on this issue. They need a proper industrial strategy that involves investment, skills and decent apprenticeships.”
Alison McGovern MP took aim at the government’s disregard for the voice and interests of working people.
She said, “The only way to ensure a successful manufacturing strategy is to ensure we address power imbalance issues.”
Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke pointed to the German model of trade union representation, training and investment as one the UK should learn from.
“There’s no real reference to dialogue and discussion with unions in the government’s Industrial Strategy. In various ways the government have argued that Germany is more productive than the UK – yet they have failed to identify why,” Burke explained.
“Apart from having better training and apprenticeships and investing over the long term, German employers have to consult with the workforce and unions are listened to and respected.
He added, “Compare this to the UK where apart from a few notable exceptions, unions are kept at arms-length by employers, workers opinions are not sought, and where decisions and investment are made over the short term.”
Unite BAE Systems convenor Phil Entwistle, who chaired the strategy’s launch in Parliament as well as the manufacturing combine, said the document’s ideas will continue to be discussed with members, employers and politicians.
“It was gratifying that so many Labour MPs came along and praised Unite for this ambitious and long term plan,” Entwistle said.
“As we move forward we will ensure that the ideas contained in this strategy, which will help defend our members and build a fairer and more productive economy, are given the recognition they deserve.”