Government must act on 'stark warning' or see mass car job losses

Commenting on the 'stark warning' today from the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) that a third of automotive jobs are at risk without government support, Unite has called for a comprehensive support package to protect the ‘jewel in the crown of UK manufacturing’, tens of thousands of skilled jobs and the creation of a clear path for the transition to electric vehicles.

UK built cars

Unite has also warned that the introduction of any vehicle replacement scheme by the government must ensure that it benefits UK-built cars or contain a high percentage of UK-made components.

Unite has previously warned that moving to an incentive scheme that simply encourages the purchase of electric vehicles only would be premature. The UK does not currently have the nationwide infrastructure to make the widespread use of electric cars viable, which is why Unite has been calling for an infrastructure investment programme to support the transition.

Transition issues

With the transition to electric vehicles not being realistic in the short-term, Unite says that support must be given for the purchase of low-emission internal combustion engines and hybrid models currently being built in the UK.

Support package needed

Unite Assistant General Secretary for Manufacturing, Steve Turner, said: “This is a stark warning from the SMMT and demonstrates why the government must urgently introduce a support package for the UK automotive industry.

“The industry is battling to cope with the consequences of collapsed demand due to the pandemic alongside ongoing challenges posed by Brexit and our future trading relationship with the European Union.

“A vehicle replacement scheme should be considered as part of a much wider intervention to assist the industry and any such scheme must promote cars built in the UK or it could unintentionally further damage the UK’s car production.

“UK car workers are crying out for a programme of transition to electric vehicles but to make this a success the government has to invest in the sector, UK component supplies and the infrastructure. This will, in turn, help to stimulate demand. 

“If the government is serious about electric vehicles then it must also provide investment and support for the development of a good-sized electric commercial vehicle in the UK. The failure to produce such a vehicle in this country is a huge missed opportunity.

“With job losses mounting daily we need urgent and decisive action from government, including a clear plan and strategy to support our core industries.  

“We have to turn talk and rhetoric into action and end the uncertainty and inaction, which only serves to fuel those arguing for global investment decisions to focus on overseas operations.”

Key demands

 Unite is calling for:

  • A comprehensive sector support package for the automotive industry in line with those already announced in France, Germany and Spain.
  • Investment in the rapid expansion of charging infrastructure, in particular the provision of fast charging points to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles.
  • Any vehicle replacement scheme to prioritise cars built in the UK or containing a high degree of UK components.
  • Support for the UK production of electric-powered commercial vehicles, (transit sized), along with an extended supply chain for manufactured components.