Building our Low Carbon Industries - The benefits of securing the future of UK energy intensive industries. Tony Burke, Assistant General Secretary, Unite.
Good afternoon and I want to thank the TUC for the opportunity to discuss the crucial issue of our energy intensive industries in the UK. Over the past three years the TUC has produced three joint studies:
For those who are not aware the industries that we describe as energy intensive are:
The key aim of the joint project with the Energy Intensive Users Group has been to demonstrate the vital employment, economic and environmental benefits of sustaining energy intensive industries in the UK. And it is important to remember that we need to look at the potential impact on the economy and localities if these industries were to be lost or if we face further closures.
In the report on energy costs in 2010 we identified that heavy energy users are 'over burdened' with policies to tackle climate change and cut energy use. We called on the Government to consult on a policy framework to avoid the loss of jobs and the need for more investment. We are also concerned that many overseas competitors have much weaker climate change policies and in some industries have no policy at all.
And we also face a fundamental threat of the export of jobs in these industries at some point in the future unless we invest and support our industries.
The second report in 2011 argued for an industrial policy for low carbon manufacturing. It identified the barriers to innovation, including high energy costs and also called upon the Government to develop a technology and innovation strategy for the sectors.
We believe that the energy intensive industries are the power house of UK manufacturing.
There is widespread belief that energy intensive users are labour intensive, pollute the atmosphere and are dirty and grimy industries - nothing can be further from the truth! We are talking about high tech industries with workers and companies who really care about the green economy, care about pollution 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 Country. 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. So let's look to the future.
There are two important issues for our members. One, we have to be clear that protection of employment for our members and the protection of these industries is paramount. 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. Just look at the experience of Longbridge where many workers ended up in low paid agency work.
Therefore 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, 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. We need desperately a banking industry that serves the needs of manufacturing.
Of course we welcome the £250m support from the Green Investment Bank but this is a drop on the ocean to what we really need. Take for instance Germany which 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 -
Our members, the workforce, 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.
Briefing document (1,000 words) issued 1 Nov 2012
This page http://www.tuc.org.uk/workplace/tuc-21596-f0.cfm
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