Based on a speech I gave at the TUC’s Climate Change Conference on 23 October at Congress House in London.
Over the past three years the TUC, along with the Energy Intensive Users Group has produced three joint studies into the impact of “green and climate change policies” on the UK economy and specifically on heavy energy use industries. These include steel, glass, papermaking, oil, chemicals, aluminium, ceramics and cement.
It is important to remember that we need to look at the potential impact on the UK if these industries were to be lost to the economy. We have 160,000 direct jobs and 800,000 jobs in the UK supply chains in these sectors. They make a powerful contribution to regional employment; some sectors dominate regional economies and are vitally important to that region.
There is a combined turnover of £95 billion. The sectors make up 20% of UK manufacturing and 3% of UK GDP with a purchasing power of £68.6 billion and £6.6 billion in pay, NI and pension contributions. They pay £12 billion in corporate taxes and levies and there is combined gross value added of £14 billion which equates to 11% of UK manufacturing.
The key aim of the joint studies with the Energy Intensive Users Group has been to demonstrate the vital employment, economic and environmental benefits of sustaining and supporting energy intensive industries in the UK.Unfortunately there is still a widespread belief that energy intensive sectors pollute the atmosphere, are dirty and grimy industries spewing out fumes and smoke – nothing can be further from the truth!
We are talking about high tech industries with workers and companies who really care about the environment and care about the future of these industries.
They are at the core of the manufacturing economy and contribute hugely to the social and economic fabric of the UK.
They are also key to our green and sustainable future – producing products such as steel for wind turbines, glass for double glazing, fibres for loft insulation and importantly recyclable packaging and plastic products.
There are two important issues for Unite members – the protection of employment and the protection of these industries.
The loss of any one of the energy intensive industries would have a significant impact, not only on the locality and region but on the economy as a whole.
We have seen in the past the effects of a large scale industrial closures and the devastating effect that has on a region or locality and eventually on the economy.
Replacement jobs are hard to come by and are usually in low skill, high turnover, low paid sectors.
Unite believes we need a strategic vision for our industrial future and the Government needs to show leadership in identifying and supporting our key heavy energy industries such as steel, oil, paper, ceramics, glass etc.
Unite has made this clear in our manufacturing strategy ‘20-20 Vision’.
We need to focus on the supply chain and ensure that we have a public procurement policy which ensures that companies in the supply chain purchase in the UK. And we desperately need a banking industry that serves the needs of manufacturing.
Unite welcomes the £250m support from the Green Investment Bank but this is a drop on the ocean to what we really need.
Germany provides similar support to the UK – but on the basis of 5 billion Euros per annum.
Unite believes that in order to develop and grow the world’s most energy efficient intensive users industries.
We need a permanent policy advisory board.
We need a banking structure that invests in UK manufacturing and in green industry.
We need transitional support through to 2020 on energy costs, technology investment and support programmes comparable to our European Union competitors.
The workforce in these sectors have invested their lives in these industries and whilst we want to ensure that we live up to the commitments made for the green economy we need a planned transition and support from the Government if we are to be the best in the world and to avoid a long term decline in these sectors.