Unite: Industrial strategy will not equip workers and industry for twin challenges of Brexit and automation

The government’s long-awaited industrial strategy – published today (Monday) – will fail to equip the UK for the many challenges the economy faces, including the major ones presented by Brexit and automation, Unite says.

The union warns that with no new money announced by the government to deliver the strategy it will not succeed in raising the UK’s sagging productivity, reverse falling wages and growth or boost the confidence of companies facing chronic Brexit uncertainty.

Unite also said that in-built Conservative hostility to unions makes the governing party incapable of harnessing the skills of the very organisations engaged with working people on a daily basis.

Commenting, Tony Burke, the union’s assistant general secretary for manufacturing, said:  “The UK is now alone among the major western economies in that our predicted rate of growth is dire.  Wages will not recover for almost another decade.  Poor productivity can be traced directly to an investment strike by business since the global crash, and in some sectors is now falling off a cliff as companies react to Brexit uncertainty.

“Apprenticeship training has been slashed as employers will not commit to investing in new workers until they know whether they can actually commit to the UK amid the chronic Brexit insecurity.

“Unfortunately this industrial strategy provides no new money to invest in the infrastructure and skills we urgently need to spread wealth around our regions and nations. Re-announcing already announced cash does not put the country in a position to meet the twin challenges of the latest industrial revolution and Brexit.

“It is also a huge pity that the government envisages little or no role for trade unions in helping to meet the new economic challenges.  We are in daily contact with over six million working people, providing mass training on skills and convincing businesses to invest, so it is extraordinary that the government has overlooked this superb facility.  This simply would not be the case in, say, Germany.”

“When the government announced last year that `industrial strategy’ would return to policy-making, Unite was delighted. At last, we thought, we will see a Conservative government rid itself of its ideological straitjacket to play an active role in re-fitting our failing economy.

“That hope has been short-lived.”