Industrial Strategy and Collective Voice with Chi Onwurah MP
Simon Sapper / 17 April 2019
At Unions 21 we are intensely interested in the whole notion of an Industrial Strategy. The Government launched its weighty contribution “Building a Britain Fit For The Future”, at the end of 2017 As we noted in our podcast at that time, the contribution of unions and the importance of collective voice were both strikingly noticeable by their absence.
The Industrial Strategy Council*, created to “hold the government to account on our progress in delivering on the ambition set out in our Industrial Strategy.” also seems less than complete in that only one Commissioner has a union identity.
So, the issue of how to ensure that collective worker voice is embodied in industrial strategy is both a live and challenging one? In a future podcast, we will be chatting with Council chair, Andy Haldane. But to get a different perspective, Becky and I spent some time for our latest podcast, with the Shadow Minister responsible for this policy area, Labour’s Chi Onwurah. Chi is also chair of the All-party Parliamentary Group on diversity and inclusivity in STEM, something else that is close to our collective heart.
As you’ll hear, it was a wide-ranging and animated conversation, and the difference in perspectives is stark. On one level, this is worrying: in an ideal world there would surely be a consensus on what the key components of an industrial strategy would be, and ready agreement that any successful strategy would have collective worker voice at its heart.
Given the apparent absence of consensus, how do we make progress – and where is the boundary between the contribution that government policy can make, and the work that unions have to do for ourselves? These are fundamental – even existential – questions that have to be addressed.
Also in this episode, the lowdown on preparations – and how to get your ticket for what looks set to be our biggest and best annual conference next month, our view on why the Director of Labour Market Enforcement, says the UK is too focussed on “low hanging fruit” when it comes to minimum wage non-compliance, and the Welcome Trust’s apparent u-turn on a four day working week. We also ask “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Amazon?”.
*Not to be confused with the Industrial Strategy Commission - set up to develop a long-term industrial strategy – all of whose Commissioners have admirable academic qualifications.