10-year fall in south-east manufacturing workers

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

The south-east’s manufacturing industry has seen a steady erosion of jobs in sectors including food processing
The south-east’s manufacturing industry has seen a steady erosion of jobs in sectors including food processing

Related tags: Trade union, Local government

The number of manufacturing workers in south-east England has plummeted 16.6% over the past 10 years, according to trade union GMB’s southern regional office, which cited job cuts at Britvic and Colman’s.

An analysis of the sector from 2006/07 to 2016/17 by the workers’ union found that the number of manufacturing roles in the region fell from 430,800 to 359,500, a decline of 71,300.

The drop in the region mirrors the national average drop of 18.6% (3,552,300 to 2,892,900 workers) over the same period, as detailed in Office for National Statistics figures.

Decade of destruction

Sevenoaks saw the largest decline in the south east of the 61 councils analysed, 63.4% over 10 years. Rother and Ashford both saw massive drops, 58.3% and 58.2% respectively. Just over a third (21 councils out of 61) bucked the trend, with manufacturing roles increasing over the 10 years.

Paul Maloney, GMB regional secretary, labelled the drop in roles as a “steady erosion”​ that cannot be allowed to continue, despite recent cuts announced at Britvic​ and Colman’s​.

“This steady erosion of the manufacturing base is continuing with job losses at Britvic and Colman's in Norwich as the latest examples,”​ he said. “However, the erosion cannot be allowed to continue. The UK has a balance of payments deficit of no less than £95bn, which amounts to 5% of our gross domestic product. This is not sustainable and will not be sustained.”

He called for co-operation between national and local government to generate new manufacturing jobs in the region.

Job erosion

“Last year, the government published plans for a coherent industrial strategy, which must be built on to halt the erosion of manufacturing jobs.

​This requires cooperation between local authorities and national government, the education sector and both employers and unions to bring forward plans for new manufacturing jobs in every area of the region.

“It requires that public procurement is used to promote export sectors and to favour import substitution. On green energy sources, for example, there should be a threshold for UK sourced parts before a project is eligible for subsidies,” ​he added.

“It is fashionable not to worry about the balance of payments deficit, but this is wrong. We need politicians who will provide leadership to address the issue before it is too late. The time is now.”

Earlier this week, Coca-Cola European Partners announced plans to close a plant in Milton Keynes, one of two in the UK, which will result in a loss of 288 jobs​.

Related topics: People & Skills

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