• TUC report sets out plan to invest for growth so jobs can be protected and created

  • Report to be launched by TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady.

  • Labour candidate for WMCA Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP to respond

  • New TUC analysis shows breakdown of employment risk for local authorities in the West Midlands

A new TUC report ‘A better recovery for the West Midlands (published today, Monday) sets out a plan to prevent mass unemployment following the pandemic, with secure jobs and decent pay for working families.

Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary will launch the report at a roundtable event with trade union leaders on Monday afternoon (3.30pm). The Labour candidate for the West Midlands metro mayor, Liam Byrne, will respond to the report at the launch.

Unemployment risk in the West Midlands

The TUC warns that there is a high risk of mass unemployment in the West Midlands without a recovery plan centred on protecting and creating jobs, backed by major investment.

Workers who have required support from the job retention scheme and self-employed income support scheme are most likely to face unemployment risks in the months ahead.

In the West Midlands, TUC analysis estimates that at least 882,000 workers (32% of the workforce) have required support from these schemes.

On top of these figures, there will be many other people who have been laid off, or who entered the employment market during the crisis, and have been unable to find work.

And the union body says economic uncertainty will affect all industries, so there will be pressure on the jobs of many workers who have not been furloughed too.

A plan to get the West Midlands growing out of the crisis – and stop mass unemployment

The pandemic alone did not cause the current crisis. It was made worse by a decade of austerity and failure to strengthen the West Midlands economy, says the TUC.

Choosing the wrong approach now risks embedding low growth, long-term unemployment and all the social ills that go alongside.

The report recommends an approach based on recently published TUC research (see notes), which found that the fastest recoveries from economic crises in UK history were based on investment for growth.

An investment for growth approach must be resourced by central government, and will need action at regional level in three key areas:

  1. Investing in jobs: Combined authorities, local councils and local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) should work in partnership to:

    • Secure investment for local infrastructure needs

    • Leverage public sector spending to support local jobs and enterprise

    • Develop a regional-level green industrial strategy that builds on the region’s strengths to meet climate targets

  2. Decent work and a new way of doing business: Combined authorities, local councils and LEP’s should attach conditions to commissioning and procurement that will improve job quality, strengthen worker voice, increase training opportunities and tackle discrimination and disadvantage in the workplace.

  3. Rebuilding public services: Combined Authorities and local authorities should adopt a policy of managing all services in-house by default, so they can raise employment and delivery standards, and strengthen the resilience of essential services such as social care.

 These priorities complement the national priorities that we have already published in the TUC’s national recovery plan (see the notes below).

Local leadership and workers’ voices

The report calls for the formation of a West Midlands recovery panel with representation from unions, employers, Job Centre Plus, relevant civic partners and local and regional government.

Regional panels would work in tandem with a UK National Recovery Panel to turn headline objectives into tailored strategies for each region.

The TUC says that regional structures with devolved powers are essential to achieving the best recovery possible, because the nature and scale of the challenge varies greatly across different parts of the UK.

The West Midlands’ strong manufacturing base and links to academic institutions places it in an ideal position to lead a green manufacturing revolution.

The report identifies the need for investment in:

  • A green housebuilding programme and extensive retrofitting to deliver the housing needs of the region and enable the region to be at the forefront of green construction

  • Green transport infrastructure. Presently there are more electric car charging points in Westminster than the West Midlands

  • Clean technology: Bring local authorities together through progressive planning polices to support the supply of clean energy. And to build links with academic institutions to support the development of green cluster

  • Further Education: To make the FE sector more accessible for working people and ensure the sector is meeting the needs of businesses and residents.  

Both the regional and national bodies should have worker representation so that workers’ voices are at the heart of decision-making for recovery plans.

TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said:

“People are very worried about their jobs. Many have been laid off already. Losing your job is a dreadful experience – devastating for families. And if we allow mass unemployment to take hold, our economy will be smaller, and the recovery from the pandemic will be slower.

“That’s why good jobs are at the heart of our recovery plan for the West Midlands. Jobs in a reborn manufacturing sector. Jobs in the green tech we need to safeguard our future. Jobs in a revitalised transport system.

“And we must value our public services in the West Midlands too. Key workers kept us going through the crisis. But after ten years of cuts, it was much harder for them than it should have been. It’s time to rebuild local public services for the future.

“This week, we’re asking the Chancellor to put his faith in people in the West Midlands and across the UK with big and bold investment. If he backs us in this way, we can avoid mass unemployment, work our way to recovery and build back better.”

 Lee Barron, TUC Midlands Regional Secretary, said:

“The TUC supports the WCMA’s recovery plan as a crucial first step. But this can only be a starting point.

 “We  now want to build upon this to deliver a genuinely world class economy that works for all working people.  This report gives us the roadmap to build back better.”

 Liam Byrne, Labour Shadow WMCA Mayor, said:

 “We stand on a precipice. The jewel in the crown of British manufacturing is now at risk, which thousands of good manufacturing jobs in jeopardy. Yet government’s plan for ‘build, build, build’ in the West Midlands announced last week came to the grand total of 50p per person a week. That is frankly too little, too late.

 “We need ministers to think again and this report shows how. It’s a not only a plan for real help now to save manufacturing, its a blue print for how our region, the home of the industrial revolution can become the Britain’s Green Manufacturing Capital’ 


 Notes to editors:

- Full report: The full report – A Better Recovery for the West Midlands – is here: https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/2020-07/A%20Better%20Recovery%20West%20Mids%20Report.pdf

- Register for the event here: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJMkf-qqqz0uHtTQ6V0cei1nJ6tkcS3_-HcL

- Regional and local unemployment risk: See the report for the full data by local authority. The analysis is based on claims made of support through the job retention scheme and the self-employed income support scheme. The figures are likely to be an underestimate, as around a million claims have not been assigned a location.

- Mass unemployment: Analysis by the Office for Budget Responsibility suggests that the UK unemployment count could reach 3m people as a consequence of the coronavirus crisis https://obr.uk/coronavirus-analysis/

- Evidence in support of investment-led economic recovery: The TUC published research in May 2020 showing that the most successful economic recoveries in the last century of UK history have come from investment-led approaches.

The research compared government expenditure in the decades following significant economic shocks and downturns. It found that during periods like the post-war recovery (1947-57),  investment for growth paid for itself.

This is because millions of working families had higher disposable income through decent work, creating the economic demand needed for strong growth and healthy public finances. And investment in stronger public services meant an effective safety that supported people to start and grow businesses.

Notes and commentary:

  1. The table compares economic recoveries over the past century, with outcomes measured over decades beginning at the trough of each recession. 1981-91 and 1975-85 are overlapping episodes, each marked by a separate period of recession at the outset.

  2. The analysis is based on the Bank of England historic data resource and latest ONS National Accounts and Public Sector Finance datasets; public sector debt figures exclude public sector banks.

  3. Figures show average annual growth for GDP and government consumption expenditure in real terms; the level of public debt as a share of GDP at the start of each recovery, and the change over the decade.

  4. The results show the best public sector finance outcomes coinciding with episodes when priority was given to strengthening social infrastructure and the economy, above all under the Attlee government after the Second World War. These outcomes (and those of the 1930s) reflected the hard-fought lessons of the 1920s and the great depression, Keynes’s work, the influence on the UK of Roosevelt’s New Deal and wider thinking in the UK to which trade unions made a major contribution.

  5. Over the 1947-57 recovery the 0.5 ppts per year contribution of government consumption to GDP growth was more than double the average across all other recoveries (excepting 1931-41, when the figures are distorted by spending ahead of the Second World War).  And GDP growth over the 1947-57 recovery was broad based, with strong (public and private) investment and exports significantly outstripping imports (the only recovery when this happened).

  6. In stark contrast are the outcomes of the 1920s and the last decade. In the 1920s, the ‘Geddes Axe’ cuts of the Conservative-Liberal coalition government implemented austerity. And in the last decade is was Osborne who wielded the axe as the Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition government implemented an austerity programme. It has been a hard way of rediscovering the lessons once learned after the 1920s.

- TUC UK national recovery plan: Our regional reports complement the national report that we published in May 2020. The key areas of action we have called for nationally are:

  1. Decent work and a new way of doing business: New business models based on fairer employment relationships and a greater share for workers of the wealth they create, including a higher minimum wage and new collective bargaining rights.

  2. Sustainable industry and a green economy: A programme to rebuild the UK’s industrial capacity with modern tech, creating over a million new jobs across the UK. And unemployment prevention through a job guarantee scheme and a fully-funded right to retrain in new skills. 

  3. A real safety net: Including reforming universal credit so it better supports working people, removing benefits conditionality, increasing the rate of statutory sick pay and  maintaining the state pension triple lock. 

  4. Rebuilding public services: Including pay rises for all public sector workers, a strategy to improve conditions for the social care workforce, sustainable funding settlements for the NHS, local government, education and other public services, and an end to outsourcing.

  5. Equality at work: Including a day one right to flexible working, stronger protections for pregnant workers and new mums, more funding for workplace disability support, and new requirements for action to achieve equality for BAME workers.

The full national report can be found here: https://www.tuc.org.uk/ABetterRecovery

- About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.