Devolution can offer an opportunity as industrial change takes effect says TUC

Date published: 16 July 2019

A report published this week (Monday 15 July), by the TUC, based on research conducted by the New Economics Foundation, looks at successful models for industrial transformation at local level.

The government intends that each part of the UK should be covered by a local industrial strategy by early 2020.

But as major changes to industry are expected, from automation and the move to a low carbon economy, the TUC in the North West is saying that local strategies can help ensure any transition for workers is just – ensuring that they get a fair share as industries change, whether through automation or in growing sectors.

The report provides partners such as local government, local enterprise partnerships, business and trade unions with evidence and ideas to help make their local industrial strategies successful.

It identifies four critical factors for successful industrial transformation that genuinely benefits communities:

  • People feel secure and have a genuine stake in their local area
  • Working people have a meaningful role in decision-making
  • A realistic sense of long-term opportunity and social mobility in the locality
  • Positive engagement between government, unions and business

It also recommends steps for national government, local government and employers to take that will enable local industrial strategies to be successful, including:

  • Job quality: the core measure for success should be supply of good quality jobs, supported through local employment charters (as are being devised already by some local authorities including Greater Manchester, Liverpool, North Tyne and London).
  • Social partnership: government, business and trade unions should sit on joint industrial strategy councils and unions should have permanent places on local enterprise partnerships and skills advisory boards.
  • Long-term planning: the government should aid long-term planning in the interests of the communities where businesses operate through corporate governance reform, including a mandatory requirement for worker representation on company boards.
  • Lifelong learning accounts: with major industrial disruption from automation and the move to decarbonise the economy set to change many jobs and industries, it will be essential to the success of local industrial strategies that the local workforce has funded opportunities to re-train in new skills.
  • Public procurement: in addition to public investment, government at all levels should use procurement to support good quality work and wider social benefits, including a target for 25% of central procurement to SMEs.

This builds on work being done across the North West, to ensure that jobs in the region are good quality. The TUC and unions have been working with Metro-Mayors and local authorities to ensure the spread of good employment standards through employment charters that are due to be launched.

TUC Regional Secretary Jay McKenna said: “Everyone is expecting big changes, from automation, artificial intelligence and the need to decarbonise the economy. But that cannot mean workers lose out and are left behind.

“We want to create a minimum standard for jobs already in the region and those that might be created. We’re doing that now, working with Metro-Mayors and developing Employment Charters. Looking at the visitor economy in Liverpool City Region, it’s growing, supporting over 57,000 jobs. These staff are the face of many employers but are amongst the lowest paid. These improved standards would raise the quality of work for thousands.

“The principle goal of local industrial strategies must be the creation of good jobs. And we can do this by using the resources at our disposal better. We can aggregate public sector spending power, and that of other anchor institutions, to help improve standards and create jobs. That cooperation between government, local or national, industry and unions, with workers and communities taking part in making plans can have a real positive impact.”

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