Unite is demanding political support for businesses and workers striving to stem the West Midlands jobs loss tsunami, that has seen at least 8,000 jobs vanish from the region in the past week alone.
Unite fears that the real jobs loss total could be much greater as the knock-on effects of rising unemployment and falling spending across the region takes hold.
Workers across the region were left bitterly disappointed that the Chancellor’s financial statement last week was silent on measures to save the region’s jobs.
The West Midlands TUC has called a summit for this week (Thursday, July 16) of local political leaders, including Mayor Andy Street (who will chair the event), all the region’s MPs, and dozens of major local employers to agree an action plan to stop the jobs losses gathering pace as the government’s jobs retention scheme (JRS) comes to an end.
Unite argues that the West Midlands should be powering the national recovery, building on its manufacturing base and the tremendous skill-set of the local population.
Recent analysis by Dr Amir Qamar and Professor Simon Collinson from the University of Birmingham shows that the largest 50 automotive manufacturing firms in the region employ a total of 83,529 – of which 45,814 are employed in high-risk firms.
Window of opportunity shutting fast
But with the JRS receding and the Westminster government reluctant to introduce survival packages for strategically vital sectors such as automotive, aerospace and aviation, the window of opportunity is shutting fast.
Unlike other major European countries including France, Germany and Spain which has provided billions of pounds of targeted support for specific sectors, the UK government has failed to provide any similar support. This lack of support is a further threat to manufacturing jobs in the West Midlands.
The union is particularly critical of the Chancellor’s failure to announce any support for Birmingham, the country’s second city, in his statement last week.
In addition to targeted sector specific support which will protect manufacturing companies as well as supply chains, Unite is also calling for the government to invest in the rapid expansion of charging infrastructure, in particular the provision of fast charging points to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles; the introduction of a vehicle replacement scheme which prioritises cars built in the UK or containing a high degree of UK components; a government-supported aircraft replacement scheme to help the aviation sector dramatically reduce its carbon footprint; and support for the UK production of electric powered commercial vehicles, (transit sized), along with an extended supply chain for manufactured components.
Speaking ahead of Thursday’s summit, Unite West Midlands’ regional secretary Annmarie Kilcline said, “This past week has been devastating for our region. At least 8,000 families – probably a great many more – were plunged into economic uncertainty and probable hardship as they were told that their jobs were going.
“But Unite is determined that we pull together as a region to defend jobs and to stop this tide becoming a tsunami that will sweep through our communities this summer.”
On the forthcoming summit meeting Kilcline explained, “The summit should see a plan for urgent action take shape as we bring together the region’s political and business leaders to develop a common plan to build back better.
“This region is blessed with the skills and expertise that we need to come out of this crisis in a fit shape, with an economy that will support decent jobs and step up to the climate change challenge, but we need action now to defend them.
“By working as an alliance of workers, politicians and employers, we are intending to make Westminster look again at how it must support the country’s second city,” she added.
But Kilcline could not deny her disappointment in the government and its lack of support. “It was bitterly disappointing that last week the Chancellor in his statement did not make any mention of support for the industries that are the pillars of our regional economy, such as the automotive sector,” she said.
“These industries support hundreds of thousands of direct jobs and thousands more in their supply chains across the West Midlands and they urgently need assistance now to continue to do so.
“One of our core demands as regional leaders, has to be to appeal to the Chancellor to think again on industrial support packages – and to do so before it is too late for the people of the West Midlands.”
The summit organised by the West Midlands TUC will take place on Thursday July 16. Major employers expected to attend include JLR, DHL (automotive), AML (Aston Martin Lagonda ) Lotus, LEVC, Polestar, Arrival, Triumph, Lear, JCB, Ricardo, Mira. Attendance is by invitation only.
By Barckley Sumner