The heavily trailed Industrial Strategy document was released this week, 250 pages of gloss and colour. And credit where it is due – it is significant and serious news when our Prime Minister asserts their belief that “a strong and strategic state…intervenes decisively wherever it can make a difference.” Brown or Blair could have penned that, so the fact that these are the word of a Conservative premier is indeed newsworthy (even on a day when a royal wedding is announced!)
But….there’s always a “but”…….this is in reality only a partial strategy. Where are public services in this document. The care sector, in which there will be more jobs in the near future than presently, is absent. Trade unions, and our nearly 6 million members get the briefest of mentions. The Taylor proposals for “good work” are given a page to themself- and then a couple of references thereafter. The creative industries seem barely to exist.
Look, this document really does need careful reading. But immediately its seems that (1) it is preoccupied with the top half of an hourglass shaped economy, not the whole kit-and-kaboodle and (2) it is very light on delivery. Yes, there are some spending commitments but that is not the same thing.
Also this week, we have the ongoing drama/scandal of Brexit impact reports not being fully disclosed to MPs. This really is a big deal for us all but for unions and our members it is like being dragged backwards.
We have made some good progress in the health, aviation and film sectors in terms of working collaboratively with employers to scope the impact of Brexit – and to work out what we, collaboratively, can do about it. This is sector level bargaining at its best. It is also the type of dynamic that the Industrial Strategy would seem to like to see (but without unions, I fear!). So research work that would allow the workers, employers and experts in each industrial sector to plan and agree a way though this mess is crucial. And the government has it. But won’t release it. This is dangerously counter-productive.
One thing we can take comfort from in such challenging times is the ability of friends in the media to continue to search and share the stories of working people. There are not nearly so many of them these days – the era of industrial correspondents has gone, with only Alan Jones at the Press Association really still active. And you could argue, as the Mirror’s Kevin Maguire does, that quaintly didn’t necessarily equate to better quality.
But Kevin, and people like Paul Mason, John Harris and Owen Jones at the Guardian, Sarah O’Connor at the FT and Conrad Landin at the Morning Star, show that there is still a population of journalists who “get” what trade unions do and why it matters. How we get stories into the news is a key part of the equation, and Kevin’s advice on that as well speculating on whether we need a “Britain’s Got Unions” or “Strictly Come Organising” makes for a lively interview on the latest unions 21 podcast.
The current episode includes that debate on Industrial Strategy, why the Brexit non-disclosure is such a problem, plus details of the 2018 Unions21 conference and how you can get your hands on tickets before anyone else!