‘At a fork in the road’

Unite: Govt’s wrong choice could devastate economy

Reading time: 4 min

Responding to a manufacturers’ body report out today (May 7) on how long businesses would need to recover from the lockdown, Unite has warned that the nation stands at ‘a fork in the road’ and the path the government chooses will determine how the UK emerges from the coronavirus crisis.

Manufacturers’ organisation, Make UK, reports previous levels of output can only return following the reopening of sectors such as automotive and retail – and with the resumption of spending patterns.

Two out of five manufacturers believe it will take between six to 12 months to return to normal trading conditions after the Covid-19 crisis ends, the new research suggests.

Nearly 300 companies were surveyed with 20 per cent saying that they believed it would take over a year for them to recover.

Make UK has put forward plans for recovery, including a scheme to help firms invest in new technology, access to protective equipment for workers and a review of health and safety regulations.

It also warned that ending the government’s job retention scheme (JRS) could well be devastating for jobs in manufacturing companies.

Make UK CEO Stephen Phipson said, “It is likely that an immediate end to the JRS for manufacturers, timed simply to coincide with the easing of lockdown arrangements, would be highly premature and could have devastating effects on employment levels within manufacturing.

“A more sophisticated, flexible and tapered approach to this funding would have a huge positive impact on confidence and help ensure that the sizeable national investment already made in the JRS was maximised and not wasted.”

And Unite is in total agreement. “These findings chime with what Unite is hearing from manufacturers,” commented Steve Turner, Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing (pictured above).

“We are at a fork in the road and the path that the government chooses in the coming days really will determine the shape in which this country emerges from this crisis.”

Turner said Unite was pressing government to invest with industry in our engineering excellence.

‘Don’t miss this moment’

He continued, “There is an opportunity before us to reshape our economy to meet future challenges such as climate change, and to create decent, skilled and secure work for people.  We urge government not to miss this moment.”

Turner believes it’s also vital that fears over the on-going availability of the job retention scheme are squashed quickly and talk instead turns to flexible measures needed to enable a phased return to safe work.

“Without these measures,” he said, “employers will start to cut costs to meet shrinking demand and consumer uncertainty.  Thousands upon thousands of skilled jobs are at risk.

“The devastation this will reap in communities and to the economy as we plunge into a deep recession is unthinkable and could be felt for generations,” he warned.

By Amanda Campbell @amanda_unite 

Related Articles