Strategy must deliver agenda for action to lower energy costs and include programme of public transport infrastructure investment
February 22nd: Responding to a speech made by Minister Jonathan Bell in response to the loss of more than 500 jobs at Bombardier-Shorts, Jimmy Kelly, Unite Regional Secretary, welcomed his desire for manufacturing to be set at the heart of a new economic strategy for Northern Ireland:
“We welcome the statement by Minister Bell in which he called for a renewed effort in growing the economy, in particular the manufacturing sector.
“While we recognise that overall employment has risen in the sector, our analysis is that this growth has been achieved in lower-value added manufacturing sectors while the overwhelming majority of jobs lost have been better paid jobs with higher productivity. The challenge is not to simply grow the economy through a race-to-the-bottom, whether that is in regard to wages or on corporation taxes.
“Following on from the Minister’s statement, Invest NI must reverse course and assure those thousands facing redundancy that they will proactively seek manufacturing foreign direct investment – the only realistic hope of securing employment of equal worth for such skilled and experienced workers.
“A meaningful growth strategy must focus on investing in the skills and talents of our workers, both young and experienced. It must also include action to lower energy costs – both by the regulator and in bringing forward the long-delayed north-south interconnector.
“If we are to compete effectively into the future, the economic strategy must be underpinned by an ambitious programme for vital infrastructural investment across Northern Ireland which should provide for a major upgrading of our transportation infrastructure, in particular our poor rail freight provision and bring forward long-term plans for a rail linkage to Britain and the continent. We need to plan now for investments that may take a generation to be realised but which will ensure a robust base for manufacturing into the long-term”, Mr Kelly concluded.