National cross-industry summit call

Unite calls on government to work with unions and industry to produce more ventilators

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Unite has said workers in manufacturing would answer the call to utilise excess capacity for the production of ventilators amid the coronavirus epidemic — but called on the government to work with both the unions and industry to take coordinated action.



Health secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday (March 15) that the NHS would need many more times the 5,000 medical ventilators it currently has to be able to treat patients who need hospitalisation for coronavirus, which can cause serious respiratory issues.



Hancock said he had reached out to “all kinds of companies’ including car manufacturers”. It is understood that the prime minister would speak with companies such as Rolls-Royce, JCB and Unipart on a conference call to discuss manufacturing extra ventilators.



Hancock said on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday (March 15), “We’ve got high quality engineering in this country. We want anybody who has the manufacturing capability to turn to the manufacture of ventilators, to do that.”



While JCB and Unipart confirmed that they had been contacted by the government and said they would do all they could, ITV’s Robert Peston said Rolls-Royce had not yet been contacted.



“I just spoke to Warren East, the chief executive of Rolls-Royce, one of the UK’s most advanced engineering companies,” Peston tweeted. “And he says government has not contacted him yet to discuss whether his or his suppliers’ facilities can be repurposed to make the many thousands of respirators.”



Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner called for a coordinated approach.



“The calls for the car industry and others to utilise excess capacity and even switch to the production of ventilators and other essential equipment for our NHS will be met positively by our members,” he said. They will be anxious to help produce what the nation needs at this unprecedented time.”



“But it would help if the government worked with the unions and the industry to coordinate taking this forward,” he added. “It is more than disappointing that there has yet to be a national cross-industry summit to discuss both keeping people safe and the economy stable.  If government is to be taken seriously about stepping up to the crisis and putting the country on the footing needed, I urge ministers to call such a summit as a matter of urgency.  Unite stands ready to meet at any time.  Just pick up the phone.”

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