UK manufacturing lags behind rest of Europe

A
TUC report out today shows that government support for UK manufacturing is the
lowest in Europe, and that the UK has lost 750,000 manufacturing jobs since
1997, while manufacturing employment has boomed in Germany, France, Spain and
Italy.

 Manufacturing now: delivering the
manufacturing strategy, claims that the dramatic decline of UK manufacturing
compared with the rest of Europe is due primarily to a lack of government
support, weak working rights and low levels of business investment.

The
report concludes that the chief threat to UK industry is higher investment and
productivity in the manufacturing sectors of the UK’s major competitors. The
report says that employers are wrong to use the threat of jobs going to Eastern
Europe or Asia to keep down pay, increase hours and block improvements to
workers rights.

Brendan
Barber, TUC general secretary, said that if the stamp ‘Made in the UK’ is to
survive and thrive, it must catch up with the rest of the pack.

"With
continuing low levels of government support and chronic under-investment,
coupled with a workforce that is easy to flog and easy to sack, UK
manufacturing will remain the ‘weak wildebeest’ of European industry," he
said.

"These
are the drivers of recovery on which the Government’s manufacturing strategy
review must focus," Barber said.

Trade
and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt said there was a great deal of
"exaggeration" over the loss of manufacturing jobs.

 She said it was wrong to "talk
down" service sector work, which she insisted gave higher than average
salaries than manufacturing.

Hewitt
told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme that she was "passionate" about
British manufacturing, which, at its best, was among the best in the world.

By Quentin Reade and Daniel Thomas

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