Tag Archives: Prime Minister

Union warns that there will be no`build, build, build’ unless government acts to avert construction apprenticeship crisis

he prime minister’s recent promise to `build, build, build’ the UK back to economic health will not be `get very far’ unless urgent action is taken to avert a crisis in skills and apprenticeship development, the country’s leading construction union has claimed today Monday 6 July .

Lethal combination

Unite the union says that a lethal combination of employers’ long-standing reluctance to invest in apprentices, allied to widespread redundancies because of the pandemic and a reluctance to recruit new entrants due to the ongoing economic uncertainty, is likely to result in there being 20,000 fewer apprentices across the sector this autumn, vastly down from the 47,284 in England last year (2019).

Industry forecasts have also indicated that there will be a sharp decline in the construction apprenticeship intake this autumn. Without the skills needed to support the sector, Unite fears that some construction contracts will have to be cancelled placing more construction workers on the dole.

Redundancy fears

The union also understands that at least 50 per cent of electrical construction apprentices are currently furloughed, with growing concerns that as the job retention scheme winds down they will be made redundant.

Such is the union’s concern, it has written to the chancellor Rishi Sunak requesting that the Chancellor uses his upcoming economic statement to “implement without delay economic policies that can help save existing construction apprenticeship jobs and ensure the summer 2020 intake of construction apprentices is of a level to meet the industry’s future needs.”

Failure to recruit

For decades the construction industry has failed to recruit and train sufficient apprentices but the skills crisis has been masked by the heavy reliance on migrant labour.  However, with changes to government policy on immigration that option will no longer be so easily available.

Additionally, construction has an ageing workforce and many workers are forced to leave the industry before state retirement age due to illness or injury.

Workforce needed

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “The prime minister’s pledge to build, build, build the country’s way out of this pandemic-caused crisis won’t get very far without a workforce.

“Construction apprenticeship training is in danger of collapsing as an after-effect of the pandemic, which is why we’re calling on the chancellor to make it clear when he announces his plans for recovering the economy this coming week that our young workers will be given a chance of a career in construction.

“At the moment, for every one good quality apprenticeship, there are one thousand applicants. Young workers have to scale this huge mountain so it is only right that they have the chance to complete their apprenticeship and have a job at the end of their training. 

“Furthermore, without these young skilled workers the industry will struggle to recover from the recession as contracts will be cancelled because there is a serious lack of expert workers.

“There has been a long-term skills and training crisis in the construction sector but the Covid-19 pandemic along with the changes to immigration law have brought this to a head.

 “Unite is working closely with responsible employers and trade associations in order to tackle the challenges on apprentice recruitment but to really conquer the challenges we face, the government must step in to support existing apprentices and ensure that new recruits will have a pathway into construction employment.”

Action required

Unite is calling for the chancellor and the government to adopt the following measures:

  • Extension of apprentice wage support to safeguard jobs
  • Repurposing of the apprenticeship levy funds to fund all first year apprentices’ pay
  • Public sector procurement policies that ensure the recruitment of high quality apprentice
  • The extension of the job guarantee scheme so that apprentice opportunities are delivered in public-funded infrastructure projects.

McCluskey response to PM’s speech: Workers urgently need a bridge to the new economy to avert a jobs abyss

Len McCluskey, the Unite general secretary, said:  “We welcome the prime minister’s promise to build our way back better than before. That’s a fine ambition but it has to be matched with the ambition and the investment which accompanied FDR’s new deal.  

“Today, however, we appear to have only been promised FDR’s loose change and some second-hand spending plans. While the US got the Hoover dam, the pandemic-hit UK gets a re-announcement of repairs to some bridges in Sandwell.

“There is no doubt that this country’s frayed infrastructure needs investment, so we hope that there is much more to come from the prime minister. 

“But this can only be part of the promise to the people of the country. The bald truth is that our country is staring at a jobs abyss which will open up this summer and swallow millions of working people.  Averting that needs urgent and immediate investment to keep people in work now, with steady wages coming home now, not the promise of an infrastructure project sometime in the future.

“I urge the prime minister to confirm that very soon we will hear that his government will follow in the footsteps of France and Germany with a proper plan to save and grow jobs in the immediate term and on the scale so desperately needed.  

“He should begin by announcing that the jobs retention scheme will be extended at least until 2021, as it has been in France and Germany, so that there is a bridge between today and the emerging economy he promises.  

“Without that bridge, employers will shed jobs in huge numbers this summer and the trauma and havoc of this virus will give way to the trauma and enduring human misery of mass unemployment.”

Labour backs the youth sector’s call for young people to be allowed to question the Prime Minister on coronavirus

Labour is calling for young people to be allowed to put questions to the Prime Minister, as part of a wider plan for the government to better engage with and support them during the crisis.

This comes after Keir Starmer engaged with young people from across the country last week, to discuss the devastating impact of Covid-19 on youth mental health, employment and opportunities.

Cat Smith MP, Shadow Minister for Young People stated:

“Voices of young people cannot continue to be ignored by this Government. Labour supports the youth sector’s call for the Prime Minister to hold a dedicated press conference for young people to address their questions on Covid-19. The government’s slow response to the Coronavirus crisis has overlooked the concerns and circumstances of young people.

“The Tories’ radio silence on the issue of young people’s future after Covid is unacceptable. Not one of the Government’s support packages have focused on the specific issues young people are facing.

“It is time the Government started listening to the young people still waiting to be heard.”

Children’s sector joint statement – Tulip Siddiq responds

Tulip Siddiq MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Children and Early Years, responding to the joint statement from over 150 charities, teachers and frontline services calling on the Prime Minister to ‘make this generation of children as central to the nation’s Coronavirus recovery plans as health and the economy’, said:

“Children seem to have been an afterthought in the Government’s response to this pandemic. We knew that young people would be among the most vulnerable in lockdown, so their wellbeing should have been one of the top priorities from the start.

“Labour and the children’s sector have warned for months about the need to prepare for an increase in demand for children’s social care and mental health services. Despite these warnings, it’s not clear that Ministers have a plan to protect those children who need it most.

“The Government must start prioritising the wellbeing of children and make sure the services that support them are properly funded.”

Easing of lockdown must happen safely

Avoiding ​a second wave in the autumn ​is vital

Commenting on the Prime Minister’s announcement today (Tuesday) that there is to be a further easing of the lockdown, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said:

“Many people will jump at the chance to see more family and friends, and visit pubs and restaurants, but others will be understandably cautious.

“Good public services need a thriving economy and the spectre of mass unemployment – particularly among the young – must be avoided.

“But the slow return to normal must happen safely. Squandering the lockdown sacrifices ​and progress made in the past three months would be foolish.

“All workplaces opening up must make proper risk assessments of the virus threat. Avoiding ​a second wave in the autumn and preventing the NHS, social care ​and other public services from being overwhelmed ​is vital.”

Address inequality to protect Black workers against Covid-19, says UNISON

Dave Prentis writes to Boris Johnson urging immediate action on all Public Health England’s recommendations

The government must act immediately to protect Black workers from Covid-19 by closing gaps that create health inequalities and poverty and ensuring workplaces are safe, says UNISON today (Tuesday).

The union has written to ​the Prime Minister urging him to implement all Public Health England’s (PHE) recommendations such as developing comprehensive risk assessments for Black staff to reduce their chance of coronavirus exposure and infection.

It follows ​the publication last week of a PHE report ​which concluded ​that the risk of dying is higher among BAME people than in white ethnic groups – a finding ​that UNISON says needs urgent answers.

The letter from general secretary Dave Prentis calls on the Prime Minister to take action including closing ethnicity and disability pay gaps, bringing into force laws to ask public authorities to consider how their policies increase or decrease inequality, and to set up a race advisory board to inform ​government policy-making.

In the letter, ​Dave Prentis says: “Coronavirus is inextricably linked to inequality. Urgent action is needed to close the gaps in health inequalities and poverty that accelerate susceptibility to coronavirus and life expectancy.

“​Poverty is a political choice. Ending deprivation and rising inequality must be a government priority as the UK deals with the economic, health and social challenges of the pandemic.

“Black workers and communities deserve to have the PHE report acted upon and their lives valued and protected as all others.”

Preet Kaur Gill comments on the findings from the Aid Transparency Index

Preet Kaur Gill MP, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, commenting on the findings from the Aid Transparency Index, said:

“This new report provides further evidence that the Department for International Development is a world-leader in transparency and achieves genuine value for money for British taxpayers. It confirms that the Prime Minister’s decision to scrap the department is counterproductive, irresponsible and wrong.

“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s disastrous track record shows that consecutive Conservative Secretaries of State have consistently failed to learn from and adopt the same levels of transparency as DfID or pursue programmes with proven and accountable impact. This Whitehall restructure is a waste of money.

“Labour is committed to ensuring that public money is spent in the most effective way to achieve the greatest impact.”

PM must show same ‘dedication’ to saving aerospace as he has to painting official plane

Prime minister Boris Johnson must show the same ‘dedication’ to the lockdown-hit aerospace industry as he has to the £900,000 paint job being given to his official plane, Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Thursday 18 June).

Unite said skilled workers at Marshall’s, which has been awarded the contract to paint the plane in Union Jack colours, will welcome the work which could ‘secure jobs in the short term’.

But the union warned that without significant state support for the wider aerospace sector, such as that provided by the US, French, German and Spanish governments, thousands of UK jobs will be put at risk.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “The skilled workforce at Marshall’s, many of whom are Unite members, will welcome the opportunity to work on this project, which may even secure some jobs in the short term.  

“But this is a sector staring at a very difficult future and this workforce – and the aerospace workforce across the UK – would really appreciate the prime minister showing the dedication to supporting these jobs that he is demonstrating to the artwork on a plane.  

“It is now more than three months since ministers promised action to protect our jobs, but while France and Germany have moved forward, our government has done nothing.

“This is also a military service plane operated by the RAF, occasionally used by both the Queen and government. It’s not the UK PM’s AirForce 1 and it’s grey for a reason, which is to avoid making it easily identifiable while carrying the Queen, the prime minister or our service personnel.  

“We would ask the prime minister to confirm that the change to a branded livery has been assessed, is safe and in the interests of national security.

“UK aerospace workers, like those in automotive and right across manufacturing, are asking why this government is taking so long to give them the support that governments in France, Germany, Spain and the US have wasted no time in providing to their strategically important sectors.”

Unite thanks Rashford for exposing out of touch government on holiday hunger

Commenting on the campaign by the footballer Marcus Rashford to force the government to act and prevent holiday hunger this summer, Unite national officer for local government Jim Kennedy said:

“Marcus Rashford is doing an incredible job in exposing how out of touch this government is but it shouldn’t have to be left to this young man to shame the government into doing the right thing.

“The public will be watching on in horror as government ministers defend the policy of denying support to hungry children over the summer school holidays.

“Holiday hunger is already at scandalous levels in this country; the coronavirus crisis will make this even worse as unemployment rises and even more families struggle.

“It is simply not good enough for the government to pass this responsibility down to already hard-pressed local authorities.

“The £63 million that the government says it has provided local authorities will not go very far when divided across the 343 competing bodies.

“The prime minister should intervene now.  The vulnerable children in Scotland and Wales will be fed this summer.  Do the right thing for England’s children, now.”

Preet Kaur Gill reacts to news the Foreign Office will take over Department for International Development

Preet Kaur Gill MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, commenting on the Prime Minister’s announcement that the Foreign Office will take over the Department for International Development, said:

“Getting rid of an independent DfID in the middle of a global pandemic is irresponsible, counter-productive and wrong.

“DfID is a world leader in providing life-changing and life-saving support to millions of people around the world. It is consistently rated as the most effective, transparent departments at delivering real value for money for British taxpayers.

“This takeover of the Department for International Development by the Foreign Office is a mistake by a Prime Minister who wants to deflect attention away from his failings in the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.”