The Manufacturing Matters report has highlighted the struggles of the manufacturing industry in all forms and called on Government to provide an “interventionist” strategy to prevent further job losses and negative impacts for workers and companies themselves.
The union told Food Manufacture that greater protection was required for workers when it came to understanding the pitfalls of takeover activity, including better regulation of the labour market.
Food manufacturing faced many of the same problems that other manufacturing industries are “currently struggling with, which the plans laid out in the strategy would help solve”, he said.
Rapid technological change
“Better regulation of the labour market, along with investment in decent apprenticeships and up-skilling, will encourage the recruitment and retention of staff needed to see food manufacturing industries adapt and thrive in an era of rapid technological change.
“Corporate governance reforms, such as worker representation on boards, would also help ensure food manufacturing businesses are led with their long-term future in mind, avoiding short-term profiteering that endangers livelihoods and product quality.”
Unite would also like to see rule changes surrounding public awareness of M&A activities, highlighting Kraft’s hostile takeover of Cadbury in 2010, which resulted in hundreds of job losses after the closure of its Somerdale plant.
“Strengthening the UK’s current public interest test for mergers and acquisitions would also avoid situations such as Kraft’s hostile takeover of Cadbury, which Unite opposed. This resulted in Kraft closing Cadbury’s Somerdale plant just a year after the takeover, despite assurances to the contrary, with machinery and production moved to Poland.”
He also said more investment was required to encourage younger people to enter the industry.
The wider strategy report called for state investment and intervention in the economy, a procurement strategy to support UK plc and new models of ownership, alongside a programme of economic activity that supported a radical transformation of approach to infrastructure investment.
It set out a four-pronged process to secure better strategic impact for the manufacturing space, as well as support for national, regional and community security.
Additional calls included the establishment of a National Investment Bank to support £250bn worth of investment, including finance to re-shore supply chains and reduce the global carbon footprint of manufactured goods. Unite also wanted to see the creation of a new commission, involving trade unions, to democratically oversee the nationalisation and support for foundation industry.
The report is available here.