Unite has ridiculed the “limp excuses” offered by a Tory MP for failing to engage with a task force set up in his constituency to safeguard local manufacturing jobs.
The South Suffolk task force, set up in response to the announcement last August that Delphi Diesel Systems will close its Sudbury plant by 2020 with the loss of 500 jobs, is chaired by Tory MP James Cartlidge.
Cartlidge said it has been “very difficult” to arrange meetings after Unite said it was “unclear” what the task force had done during the last six months to secure the future of the manufacturing base and the jobs of the skilled workforce.
The union made the criticisms after it was revealed that task force members – made of representatives from the county council, Babergh district council and local business support agencies – had failed to consult Delphi’s staff, despite having been on site to talk to the management.
Unite has also commissioned a report by the Syndex consultancy, which concluded that the Sudbury plant holds a “unique” position within the UK economy and has viable future even after Delphi departs the site.
The union discussed the report with Department of International Trade officials during a meeting last week, however Unite regional manager Neal Evans said dialogue with the South Suffolk task force has not been forthcoming.
Evans added, “The apparent lack of a coherent blueprint from the task force is very worrying.”
Responding to Unite’s criticisms, Cartlidge told the East Anglian Daily Times, “In terms of action, we have been taking evidence. Our next meeting is planned for early May.
“We had hoped to meet before that but it has been very difficult to arrange a date with all parties.”
Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said in reality Cartlidge is “just not interested”.
“Unite is leading the way in trying to develop something in an area that is deprived of high quality manufacturing jobs. We’ve got ideas and plans, yet the chair of the task force set up by the government admits they’ve not been able to organise a meeting,” Burke said.
“He says they haven’t consulted with the workforce because it’s been difficult to arrange a date. That’s probably the limpest excuse I’ve ever heard from a Tory MP. He’s just not interested.”
Evans added that if the government’s “much-vaunted” industrial strategy means anything, “it should be safeguarding a world-class site, such as that at Sudbury”.