Blair pledges long-term manufacturing support

The Prime Minister was set to offer government support to manufacturing
staff made redundant by the deepening recession in his planned address to the
TUC Annual Congress.

Tony Blair decided not to give the speech following the terrorist attack on
the World Trade Centre, but the transcript has been made available to Personnel
Today.

In it he acknowledges that the strength of the pound has hit manufacturing
hard and that with export markets shrinking, the situation is getting worse.

"I know the pain much of manufacturing is experiencing," he says.
"In the UK, as around the world, jobs are being shed even from the most
seemingly secure of companies.

"We shall be increasing the support to employees made redundant and
working with you to provide reskilling and retraining where we can."

But Blair reaffirms his commitment to prudent, long-term handling of the
economy andhis desire for the UK to join the single currency, given the right
economic conditions.

The Prime Minister is concerned about the productivity gap. "In some
sectors, we still lag 45 per cent behind the US and 20 per cent behind France.
That is why the investment in education, skills, science and technology is so
vital," he says.

In the wide-ranging speech, Blair reiterates the Government’s support of
public services, but stresses that reform is inevitable.

"Change is never easy. But reform is not the enemy of public service in
Britain – the status quo is. We offer a partnership for change and
reform."

He praises the unions for changing with the times and embracing partnership
as the way forward. "People want fairness at work. They understand there
are employers who treat employees unfairly, but prefer to regard their
employers as partners not enemies.

"Partnership is not a denial of trade union interests. It is their
modern expression."

By Ross Wigham

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