Unions & Employers: We Need A Manufacturing Army To Beat Virus.

Unite, the doctors’ union, Unison, the British Medical Association, and the nurses union the Royal College of Nursing have joined together in calling for government to unleash a national effort to produce the protective equipment (PPE) millions of key workers desperately need to keep safe during the health crisis.

The unions, have been joined by industry employers in the aerospace sector – ADS Group and printing employers British Printing Industries Federation, in saying that that manufacturing capacity currently furloughed or under utilised should be repurposed amongst the UK’s world leading manufacturers to produce the PPE kit desperately needed by our NHS, social care providers and other front-line workers across UK industry.

Skilled workers are desperate to play their part, using their engineering and manufacturing expertise to ramp up production, under license from existing manufacturers that simply can’t cope with demand or secure essential supplies given the unprecedented demands on raw materials and components.

With millions of PPE kits urgently needed to supply UK industry, Unite believes that demand at home, with excess dispatched across the globe, could be met from an army of manufacturers once the government gives the signal for UK Plc to swing into action, supplemented by a domestic army of small businesses and home workers with access to the appropriate tooling and technologies, such as 3-D printers.

Steve Turner, Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing, said: “We have plants and people standing idle and underutilised when they could be put to great use in defence of the public’s health. 

“Government must now move from soundbite to action and put out a ‘call-to-arms’ to existing providers, materials suppliers and manufacturers. Temporarily addressing manufacturing restrictions based on copyright, patent or intellectual property, we could have a manufacturing army up and running, producing a range of PPE and essential supplies, in a matter of days.

“We showed how UK manufacturing can pull together in the national interest to produce urgently needed medical ventilators and we already have our members at the Royal Mint producing medical visors. 

“Further, Friday’s call across Northern Ireland saw over 100 companies responding positively to produce everything from hand sanitiser to medical scrubs, while a call from the Australian government last week saw 130 manufacturing companies step up to produce everything from hand sanitiser, visors and face masks, to goggles, gloves, surgical gowns, mask fit test kits and thermometers.

“There is no reason why we cannot ramp up production across the UK – with government planning and coordination between those coming forward to provide lifesaving PPE for all; from our NHS to local government, food manufacturing to parcels delivery. Unite’s members stand ready to deliver – government must now make the call.”

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said“NHS and care staff are doing vital jobs looking after us all, but the work they do mustn’t put them at risk.  Shortages of protective equipment are making staff anxious, but they’re in the forefront of the fight against this deadly disease. 

“There must be a nationwide effort with government and manufacturers all doing their bit so public service workers can get the equipment they need.  As they are protecting and looking after us, so we must protect and look after them.  This sensible proposal could go a long way towards solving the current problems.”

Dr David Wrigley, GP and BMA deputy chair said: “Doctors, healthcare workers and carers are risking their lives day-to-day in the battle against COVID-19. They must be protected with proper PPE so they can stay healthy to care for patients safely and stop the spread of this deadly virus. 

“The government must urgently spearhead a national drive the likes of which has not been seen in peacetime and support UK manufacturers right now to make the vital PPE equipment health and care workers need.  With the UK’s health workers enduring severe shortages and suffering a postcode lottery in the supply of vital protective equipment, the government has a moral duty to do everything in its power now, to protect doctors and protect patients.

“We are in the grip of the biggest public health crisis of our lifetimes and will be dealing with it for a long time to come. Let us now unleash the brilliance of the UK’s manufacturing workers to alleviate the critical shortage of PPE and protect doctors so that they can help you.”

ADS Chief Executive Paul Everitt said: “Our members are among manufacturers helping to supply the NHS with vital protective equipment like face masks, respiratory equipment and clothing. Companies in our sectors are also responding to a call from the government for proposals to develop technology for rapid sanitisation of ambulances. Manufacturers have the capabilities needed to help the government and the NHS address the challenges they are facing and we are working with them to help make sure they can access the equipment they require.”

Dame Donna Kinnair, RCN Chief Executive and General Secretarysaid: “Weeks into this crisis, it is completely unacceptable that nursing staff, wherever they work, have not been provided with personal protective equipment. I am hearing from nurses who are treating patients in Covid-19 wards without any protection at all. This cannot continue. They are putting themselves, their families, and their patients at risk.

“We will not accept anything less than aprons, gloves and masks for all staff, in all settings. But this is a minimum – and that is why we are so disappointed even that level of protection has yet to be provided. Every minute we wait is a minute too long.”

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“We’ve Got The NHS”

Here’s “We’ve Got The NHS” written and performed by Canning Town bluesman Bill Farrow with Richie Milton. 

They are looking to do a gig around this to support the great NHS workers but looks like that can’t happen – so please help by tweeting and pasting this on your Facebooks…


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They used to be on the naughty step. Now the unions are front of house

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March 2020 Edition Of Media North – Download

You can download the new 8 page pdf edition of Media North’s latest newsletter by clicking on this link MediaNorth.March2020

It has some great reports from student journalists on the very successful February ‘It’s the Media, Stupid!’ Conference, along with our usual array of interesting articles including:

BBC Under  Attack By Tories; Local News Matters; Challenging Media Power; What About Media Workers? 

There’s news of the book related to the conference too – that’s due to be published in mid April.

Details of how to pre-order are on page 8.

We’re currently working on a special MediaNorth issue on media coverage of the coronavirus.

Ideas or contributions welcome. We aim to get this to you mid April.

Follow Media North on Twitter at @campaign_and



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25 million jobs could be lost worldwide as a result of COVID-19, says ILO

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder

The economic and labour crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic could increase global unemployment by almost 25 million, according to a new assessment by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

However, if we see an internationally coordinated policy response, as happened in the global financial crisis of 2008/9, then the impact on global unemployment could be significantly lower.

The preliminary assessment note, COVID-19 and the world of work: Impacts and responses , calls for urgent, large-scale and coordinated measures across three pillars: protecting workers in the workplace, stimulating the economy and employment, and supporting jobs and incomes.

These measures include extending social protection, supporting employment retention (i.e. short-time work, paid leave, other subsidies), and financial and tax relief, including for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. In addition, the note proposes fiscal and monetary policy measures, and lending and financial support for specific economic sectors.

Based on different scenarios for the impact of COVID-19 on global GDP growth, the ILO estimates indicate a rise in global unemployment of between 5.3 million (“low” scenario) and 24.7 million (“high” scenario) from a base level of 188 million in 2019. By comparison, the 2008-9 global financial crisis increased global unemployment by 22 million.

Underemployment is also expected to increase on a large scale, as the economic consequences of the virus outbreak translate into reductions in working hours and wages. Self-employment in developing countries, which often serves to cushion the impact of changes, may not do so this time because of restrictions on the movement of people (e.g. service providers) and goods.

Falls in employment also mean large income losses for workers. The study estimates these as being between USD 860 billion and USD 3.4 trillion by the end of 2020. This will translate into falls in consumption of goods and services, in turn affecting the prospects for businesses and economies.

Working poverty is expected to increase significantly too, as “the strain on incomes resulting from the decline in economic activity will devastate workers close to or below the poverty line”. The ILO estimates that between 8.8 and 35 million additional people will be in working poverty worldwide, compared to the original estimate for 2020 (which projected a decline of 14 million worldwide).

“This is no longer only a global health crisis, it is also a major labour market and economic crisis that is having a huge impact on people,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. “In 2008, the world presented a united front to address the consequences of the global financial crisis, and the worst was averted. We need that kind of leadership and resolve now,” he added.

The ILO note warns that certain groups will be disproportionately affected by the jobs crisis, which could increase inequality. These include people in less protected and low-paid jobs, particularly youth and older workers. Women and migrants too. The latter are vulnerable due to the lack of social protection and rights, and women tend to be over-represented in low-paid jobs and affected sectors.

“In times of crisis like the current one, we have two key tools that can help mitigate the damage and restore public confidence. Firstly, social dialogue, engaging with workers and employers and their representatives, is vital for building public trust and support for the measures that we need to overcome this crisis. Secondly, international labour standards provide a tried-and-trusted foundation for policy responses that focus on a recovery that is sustainable and equitable. Everything needs to be done to minimize the damage to people at this difficult time,” concluded Ryder.

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Government Should Tell The Truth Over NHS

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady appearing on BBC’s Question Time on Thursday told Tory health Minister Matt Hancock to “tell the truth” about the problems in the NHS in dealing with the Coronavirus.

She said: “There is a worry over necessary tools in hospital for all staff, not just the nurses and doctors, but cleaning staff who require sanitising products.

“We’re not just talking about doctors and nurses, were talking about cleaners and porters and all the other support staff. Without them, our hospitals can’t function.

“Were hearing people need masks, soap, equipment to fight this pandemic.” Ms O’Grady added.

QT presenter Fiona Bruce exclaimed: “They’re telling you they haven’t got enough soap!?”

Frances responded: “We have had that too. This is a team, in the NHS people see themselves as a team, they know they depend on each other, in order to do the job they need to do. So there are real worries. We need to get that sorted fast.”

Referring to the Government announcement that car companies and other engineering companies would be asked to manufacture ventilators and respiratory equipment she said: “I’m really interested in the ventilators point, it’s fantastic if we have got manufacturing companies prepared to switch production, as are unions representing manufacturing workers.

“Let’s be straight with people it’s not as simple as its sometimes portrayed. Switching manufacturing, getting the parts, sometimes from China, it’s not always easy.

“So let’s tell people the truth, we’re grow-ups I think we can take it, we want to know how long will this take.

“In the meantime, how do we get that international cooperation, to get the ventilators to where they need to be most and that takes co-operation. Not point-scoring across nations, but helping each other.”

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UK auto industry shuts down: government needs to step in to support workers, and fast, as Coronavirus hits

Professor David Bailey

By Professor David Bailey, is Senior Fellow at the UK in a Changing Europe, Professor of Business Economics at the Birmingham Business School and Visiting Professor at the Centre for Brexit Studies

March 19th 2020 (updated)

With JLR confirming it will suspend its UK manufacturing facilities over the course of the next week the of the UK mass auto industry has effectively shut down, as the devastating economic effects of Coronavirus unfold across Europe, disrupting supply chains and also dramatically reducing demand.

Nissan, BMW, Honda, Toyota and Vauxhall have all announced that their assembly and engine plants will be temporarily shutting down UK production – for how long is not yet clear. These plants employ over 20,000 workers directly and many more in the supply chain.

Other manufacturers like Airbus have also announced plant shut downs.

There is a fear as to how much of the auto industry will actually survive the crisis here in the UK. The Chief Executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, Mike Hawes, hit the nail on the head when he said that the auto industry stands “on the precipice”.

In previous blogs I’d described the situation facing the UK auto industry last year as a ‘perfect storm’ in terms of the shift away from diesels in the wake of the Volkswagen scandal, a volatile Chinese market (which had a big effect on JLR in particular) and Brexit uncertainty slowing the economy – and hence car sales and output. The Coronavirus brings ‘Perfect Storm Part 2’, sadly.

As assemblers shut down, orders for component manufacturers dry up and there is a cascade effect on the supply chain. Supply chain firms will have to start shutting down also. While workers at Toyota are being paid wages for now, that will not be case in parts of the supply chain.

The fear here is over a scarring effect on the long term capacity of UK automotive and manufacturing. The longer the shut downs go on, the more likely there will be a permanent impact on an industry that has already been struggling, and parts of an otherwise viable supply chain could be lost.

Not only is there a major supply chain issue, but the major assemblers themselves will be facing a big cash hit as consumers postpone purchasing cars. While auto firms’ plants in China are just coming back into action, they are closed in Europe and the US. Ford for example has just suspended dividends and has drawn down some $15.4bn in credit lines.

The crisis comes at a time when International auto markets had anyway been slowing or stagnating, while at the same time car firms are having to invest huge amounts on a raft of new technologies, especially electric vehicles (EVs). A big squeeze is effectively playing out, and scale is seen as increasingly important for car firms.

So the shut downs will weaken firms and push them further to merge and consolidate. Auto firms will review investments and what models they produce, and where.

That poses further big questions over the position of some UK plants which anyway face uncertainty over the nature of the UK’s trading relationship with Europe at the end of 2020.

Given this, we might learn some useful lessons from other European countries in how they are supporting employment and not only in manufacturing. Such support takes a number of forms but one comes in support to keep workers in their jobs when shocks hit.

For example, in Germany, there is a long tradition of using ‘Kurzarbeit’ short time working support.

Conditions for the deployment of short-time work include economic difficulties, such as sharp declines in demand. The scheme was used very effectively in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis, bringing praise from JCB Chairman Sir Anthony Bamford on how German industrial capacity was retained, in contrast with the British experience.[1]

The approach was used again in response to the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami which affected critical components for the European auto industry and saw auto plants temporarily closed.

It is now being used again to support workers facing cuts in hours worked at German businesses, paid out at a maximum two-thirds of the wage fall experienced by workers.

Similar wage replacement approaches have been developed in Denmark, and a short term lay off scheme in Sweden enables employers to reduce wage costs and temporarily stand down workers, while the latter still receive 90% of their wage.

There are a number of advantages to such schemes. Not only do they keep workers in their jobs and maintain their incomes (up to a certain level), but they help keep manufacturing (and other business) capacity in place ready for when conditions improve. In Germany the scheme has also been combined with retraining so that workers are able to learn to use the latest technologies, which boosts productivity longer term.

There is a precedent here in the UK the Welsh government used the ‘ProAct’ wage subsidy scheme successfully during the global financial crisis. This was used to fund training during the recession up-skill staff in readiness for the upturn, with some success.

At the time of writing we are awaiting a government announcement on what support will be offered to employees in the ‘gig economy’ and on zero hours contracts. Such measures will be vital. So too is a short time working scheme to help keep workers in their jobs across the economy, and especially in manufacturing industries like automotive

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TUC: Protecting workers’ jobs and livelihoods


TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady

Download full report (PDF)

The TUC economic response to coronavirus

Summary of recommendations:

Step one: Ensuring that business support also protects jobs 

  • Government must ensure that business supports including urgently introducing a wage subsidy scheme to support people in jobs, building on best practice across Europe.
  • To ensure that government resources have the greatest economic and social impact and support the highest number of citizens, businesses and employers should set out Jobs and Fair Wages Plans as a condition of access to government support,with further details to be agreed by the Corona Virus Union and Business Taskforce.
  • Where organisations with low margins are not able to absorb the current financial hit and repay their loans from future revenues, consideration should be given to debt cancellation in the medium term – otherwise there is a danger that support given today simply delays, rather than removes, the threat of job losses and business collapse.
  • In the event of their employer’s insolvency, all working people should be able to recover all forms of remuneration owed to them by their employer in full – including unpaid wages, holiday pay, notice payments, maternity, paternity and parental leave pay and any outstanding sick pay. This requires reform to remove the current limits on the amounts that workers can recover from the Redundancy Payments Office.

Step two: Sick pay for all 

  • Government needs to act now to remove the lower earnings limit for qualification for sick pay, and ensure everyone can access it, no matter how much they earn.
  • Government should urgently increase the weekly level of sick pay from £94.25 to the equivalent of a week’s pay at the Real Living Wage.

Step three: Support for parents

  • Government should introduce guaranteed paid parental leave for one primary carer for the duration of the school and nursery closures, with government reimbursement for employers.
  • This must be accompanied by protection from unfair treatment or dismissal for parents who take up this leave, no matter how long they’ve worked in their jobs.

Step four – provide more help to families, and a stimulus to the economy 

  • The response to Corona will go well beyond the NHS to encompass social care and wider local authority functions, who are likely to have to hire considerable additional staff. Government needs to start bringing together leaders in these sectors, including unions, to design a support package for them.
  • Government urgently needs to design a wider package of support for households, in addition to wage subsidies and better sick pay. It should consult unions, employers and civil society on this, but measures could include:
    • a fully-funded freeze on council tax payments, as well as council tax debt repayments
    • the hardship fund for local authorities must be significantly increased, and the details clarified
    • an immediate increase in social security payments
    • ending the five-week wait for universal credit
    • supporting rental costs as well as mortgages.

Step five: Bring together unions and employers to help the national effort 

  • The prime minister should pull together unions, business and government agencies to minimise the economic and health impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The aim of the taskforce will be to bring stakeholders together to co-ordinate support and ensure that measures are being effectively targeted, delivered and accessed by employers and workers in need.



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Len McCluskey: “We need measures equal to the economic and public health emergencies upon us”

Unite’s Len McCluskey

Responding to chancellor Rishi Sunak’s package of support for businesses announced this evening (Tuesday, 17th March) and the prime minister’s pledge to do `whatever it takes’ to support people and jobs through the corona virus crisis, the head of the UK’s leading union, Unite, has said that his union stands ready to play their part throughout this time of crisis.

Len McCluskey, Unite’s general secretary said: “It is abundantly clear that we need a package of measures equal to the public health and economic emergencies now upon us.

“Urgent and considerable action is needed by government to avert personal and industrial catastrophe. 

 “Unite is pleased to have heard the prime minister and chancellor say very clearly that they `will do whatever it takes’ to protect public health and the economy’s health.  We will hold them to that.

 “However, we remain extremely concerned that workers’ and individuals’ own capacity to act on the public health advice will remain seriously compromised because the direct economic support has not yet been provided by government.  This must change and urgently.  Providing wage support and covering rents must be a priority.

 “It is welcome that those hit by the virus will have a three month mortgage holiday should they need it, but what about the vast majority of people who rent?  They need to know that they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their families’ heads.   Only then will they feel able to play their part in tackling this public health emergency.  

 “We urgently need for the government to introduce now the sort of measures that we have seen implemented in our competitor nations, including paying workers 75 per cent plus of their salary while they are forced to be at home as has been introduced in Denmark and Holland.  UK workers deserve the same efforts and assistance.”

 For further information, please contact Pauline Doyle on 07976 832 861

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Yorkshire Premiere of ‘Wapping – The Workers Story’

The Yorkshire premiere of the film “Wapping – the Workers’ Story” – see flyer below. Although the event is free, space is limited, so please do book by clicking here.

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