Northern Ireland’s industrial sector highly exposed to global shocks from Covid-19 pandemic
Investment needed now to secure ‘at risk’ skills base if Northern Ireland is to seize opportunities for future growth
Jackie Pollock, Regional Secretary for Unite, called on the Ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive to bring forward ambitious plans to reallocate manufacturing skills in the face of increasingly challenging economic climate.
“Northern Ireland has a large and vibrant manufacturing sector. Ten percent of all jobs in the economy are in manufacturing – and the sector supports the jobs of one in four – one of the highest percentages in any developed economy but that success has been achieved despite the absence of an effective industrial policy.
“Unite is aware of mounting threats posed to jobs in the manufacturing sector as a result of the global downturn – in particular that in the more advanced manufacturing sectors where we have a longstanding strength. Our productive economy – because of its strengths in advanced manufacturing – is particularly exposed to headwinds from a global downturn and dislocation to supply chains.
“The Covid-19 pandemic marks a significant hinge point for our economy. As well as the severe economic shock it has generated, the Covid pandemic has revealed the susceptibility of our extended, global supply chains to dislocation. The pandemic has accelerated the move to increase trade barriers and the possibility of large-scale disinvestment.
“While we need an active industrial programme to counter the threats, we also need one that enables us to seize future opportunities for growth. Critical to our success will be our ability to secure the skills base of our manufacturing workforce. Northern Ireland’s workers have repeated demonstrated their ability to succeed in the highest levels of manufacturing – they have the skills needed to enable a just transition to a more sustainable economy and to deliver on any Green New Deal.
“The global trend to reduce supply-chains could offer opportunities to see jobs and production reshored to Northern Ireland but critical to this will be the Executive’s success in retaining our skills base; in particular to ensure skilled manufacturing workers facing the threat of redundancy are turned to alternative employment so that we retain vital craft skills in the economy. There is no room for complacency or delay – the threats to jobs are likely to mount quickly.
“We need to see a properly-funded, ambitious and flexible industrial programme which will effectively protect manufacturing capacity, jobs and skills and lay the foundations for a stronger economy in the future”, Mr Pollock concluded.