Unite signed a union recognition agreement with Hitachi Rail Europe covering the firm’s cutting edge train manufacturing facility in County Durham today (30 January).
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner, along with other union officials, visited Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe train manufacturing site to sign a recognition agreement with the firm covering 750 workers.
The £100m site, which has rapidly expanded since opening in 2015, is home to the new Azuma train for the East Coast Mainline and has already led to a spend of more than £628m with 1,168 UK suppliers.
Turner met with Hitachi management and Unite shop stewards, before taking a tour of the factory and signing the recognition agreement with Hitachi Rail Europe’s chief operating officer for manufacturing Ross Nagle.
Turner said, “Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe site is home to a world class workforce and is a powerhouse of the regional economy. It nurtures key manufacturing skills, brings desperately needed investment and sustains jobs throughout the area’s supply chain.”
Support UK manufacturing
In a letter written to transport secretary Chris Grayling to coincide with the visit, Turner called on the government to support UK manufacturing, jobs and skills by investing in rail infrastructure and awarding new rolling stock contracts to UK factories.
The letter warns ministers that high quality skilled jobs which sustain communities across the UK could be hit unless the government brings forward new passenger train contracts and awards them to companies manufacturing in the UK.
Turner said, “All this hard work could be short lived, with the UK’s rail manufacturing renaissance shunted into the sidings, if the government doesn’t bring forward the investment needed to upgrade our regional and intercity networks and award contracts for new rolling stock to UK-based train manufacturers as part of a proper industrial strategy supporting UK Plc.”
Unite Hitachi rep Claire Smith, who was at the signing at Newton Aycliffe, echoed Turner’s call.
She said: “If we’re going to get workers at the factory off fixed term contracts and onto permanent contracts then we need to know that trains that are going to be used in Britain are going to be built here and the government needs to support that.”
Smith said the recognition agreement was “really exciting”, adding that “it’s taken a lot of work for us to get here and now we’ll be concentrating on getting stronger and increasing the membership”.
John Pearson, also a Unite rep at the factory, was similarly enthusiastic.
He said: “This is a good step forward and we will work with management to get the best deal possible for our members.”