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

New report considers lessons for UK from industrial transformation in Bilbao, Eindhoven and Iceland. Communities must be in control of change resulting from automation and decarbonising the economy, says TUC.

A report published yesterday (Monday) 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: 

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

And it 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 yesterday 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.” 

Notes to editors: 

  • Report: The full report Industrial transformation in practice can be found here: https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/IndustrialTransformationinPractice.pdf 
  • Summary of case studies in the report: 
    • Bilbao: Bilbao, the de facto capital of Spain’s Basque region, has transformed itself following the 1973 oil crisis and a catastrophic flood a decade later. A world-famous culture sector – symbolised by the Guggenheim Museum – now sits alongside a reduced but still present industrial base. Leadership, collaboration across different levels of government, and the continued role of trade unions have all been important for Bilbao’s journey. Identity and culture, solidarity and co-operation have been key concepts in its success.  
    • Eindhoven: Its previous success based on two major companies, Philips and DAF, Eindhoven began to suffer with the first wave of global offshoring. Yet it has now largely reinvented itself as a major technology node, a textbook example of a knowledge region built on an existing industrial base. Eindhoven’s “triple helix” approach aims to strengthen and accelerate collaboration between national and regional government, business and knowledge institutions in the region. Brainport Eindhoven is seen as a cooperative equivalent to Silicon Valley.  
    • Iceland: Dangerously exposed to the financial services industry, Iceland saw the collapse of its banks after the 2008 financial crisis. During the decade since, Iceland’s recovery has coincided with it becoming the most gender-equal, the most unionised and reportedly one of the happiest places on earth. Small but growing biotech and pharmaceutical sectors sit alongside tourism as key industries. Influenced by trade unions, the Icelandic government maintained high levels of social security after the crisis. This commitment to equality, as well as prosperity, has underpinned Iceland’s recovery.  
  • A just transition to a greener, fairer economy: The Paris Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change included a commitment to a ‘just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs’. As of May 2019, the agreement has been signed by 194 states including the UK. Last week the TUC published a roadmap report for a just transition. The full report is here: https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/A_Just_Transition_To_A_Greener_Fairer_Economy.pdf  
  • Congress 2019: The TUC’s annual Congress will be held in the Brighton Centre from Sunday 8 September to Wednesday 11 September. Free media passes can be obtained by visiting www.tuc.org.uk/applying-media-or-external-visitor-credentials and completing an online form. Applications must be in by noon on Tuesday 27 August. Any received later than that will be processed in Brighton and will cost £75 +VAT.  
  • About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living. 

Contacts: 

Jay McKenna 
jmckenna@tuc.org.uk 
07788 414578 
0151 482 2710 

TUC press office 
media@tuc.org.uk  
020 7467 1248 

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Original article link: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/devolution-can-offer-opportunity-industrial-change-takes-effect

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