Stop UK tech ‘crown jewel’ sale

Arm staff tell Cambridge MP computer chip giant’s sale to NVIDIA must be stopped ahead of parliamentary debate

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Arm staff warned Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner of the consequences of a planned £31 billion sale of the UK software and semiconductor giant to rival firm NVIDIA ahead of a parliamentary adjournment debate yesterday evening (Monday 21 September).

In a meeting organised by Unite, Zeichner met with staff from the company, which employs around 3,000 people, to listen to their concerns over the controversial deal between Arm’s Japanese parent company, Softbank, and US-based NVIDIA. 

During the parliamentary debate, Zeichner said Unite members had warned him that 600 roles not covered in NVIDIA’s promises to retain jobs could be at risk, as well as to Arm’s graphics division, which employs 500 people, if the company merges Arm’s operations into its own 

Zeichner highlighted other staff concerns, such as a US takeover endangering ties with Arm’s numerous Chinese customers due to trading constraints imposed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States and worsening relations between the American and Chinese administrations.

“It would be astonishing if this Government, with all their talk of world-beating test systems and taking back control, considered allowing us to lose further control of one of the only areas of technology in which we are genuinely world-beating and world-leading,” Zeicher said.  

“It is particularly astonishing that the government might be prepared to throw away British influence when it represents such a key bargaining chip in trade talks in a post-Brexit era. 

“I do not think any other country in the world would allow such a jewel in the tech crown to be handed over in this way.”

Arm workers also told Zeichner that they had learned about the proposed sale through the press, a situation that Unite described as “unacceptable”.

Unite regional officer Matt Whaley said: “Unfortunately, the company’s leadership has form in presenting large scale changes as faits accomplis. Unite is clear that Arm’s bosses will not get away with simply ignoring staff and forcing through changes that could do irreparable harm to the firm and its workforce.

“Our members fear that a takeover will intensify Arm’s already excessive working culture as NVIDIA’s management seeks rapid returns on its investment.”

Referencing government ambitions to see the creation of UK firm comparable to Apple, Unite called for greater investment and support of domestic tech innovation and manufacturing, including public procurement policies that benefit homegrown enterprises and jobs.

Unite national officer for information technology Louisa Bull said, “The concerns of Arm’s employees, along with the alarms bells being sounded from politicians and industry, should be reason enough for the government to strike this deal down in the national interest.

“Ambitions to see the rise of a UK equivalent to Apple are all well and good. The fact is that without a cohesive industrial strategy from the government, and one that supports and invests in innovation and manufacturing across the UK tech sector, we will be overtaken by other nations. 

“Such an industrial strategy must include safeguarding Arm, which is the UK tech sector’s crown jewel, and ensuring that the UK’s annual £292 billion public procurement budget is geared towards supporting UK manufacturing and the jobs that come with it.”  

In response to Mr Zeichner’s questions in parliament, minister for digital and culture Caroline Dinenage said, “The Government closely monitor all acquisitions and mergers. When a takeover may have a significant impact on the UK, we will not hesitate to investigate further and take appropriate action. 

“In this case, we are working hard to understand the full impact of the move and the potential impact it may have on the future. From there, we are able to consider what steps we may wish to take.”

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