Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bombardier, Procurement and British Manufacturing

Today’s papers dedicate many column inches to the news that more than 1,400 jobs are to be cut at Bombardier, the UK’s last train manufacturing plant, in Derby. These job losses come after Bombardier lost the £3bn contract to supply 1,200 carriages for the Thameslink route, a contract that was won by Siemens of Germany. The Guardian quotes Bombardier as saying that the loss of the Thameslink contract made a near 50% cut in the workforce “inevitable”.

I could write more about the companies involved, but I would prefer to concentrate on the failures of policy that led to today’s decision, in the hope that next time we will be better prepared. But for the record, Siemens employs about 16,000 people in the UK, many of them trade unionists, and makes an major contribution to the economy. What is written below is in no way a criticism of Siemens or its workers, in the UK, in Germany or anywhere else. This is a systemic failure that neither Labour nor Conservative Governments have tackled, namely a failure to institute policies that allow UK procurement policy to support British industry.

Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, had a point this morning, when he highlighted the fact that the specification for this contract was drawn up by the last Labour Government. But he should be careful: his Government introduced a Plan for Growth last October, which failed to address the wider issue. The TUC’s Budget Submission in April 2011, for the umpteenth time, called for action on procurement. For the umpteenth time, we were ignored. So let me repeat our words exactly:

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