A survey — see here — by manufacturing bosses’ organisation Make UK published on 15 June indicates a big flood of job cuts in the next three months, July to September.
They report only 11.7% of firms operating at capacity; 81% vs 39% predicting further falls in output in the next three months; a quarter of firms already having decided on redundancies; and only one-third saying they won’t make redundancies in the coming months.
This week, starting 15 June, is the last time for bosses to send out the “HR1” letters required by law for large-scale redundancies if they are to take effect before the government reduces its furlough pay-outs from 80% to 60% of full pay, in August.
The driving factor here is not the lockdown as such. There was no ban on factories continuing to work during the lockdown. Some did. Nor is it the difficulty of adapting work sites for covid-distancing and PPE. In many modern factories, that is easier than in offices.
It is a collapse of orders. Aviation is in steep decline, and ripples from that go down a long supply chain. A number of big construction and investment projects have been stalled.
Some have speculated that the pandemic may lead to a boom in robots. So far, anyway, however, the hardest-hit sectors in British manufacturing are the ones closest to high-technology: “machinery equipment”, “electrical equipment”, and “electronics”.
Those sectors, so the managers report, have been hit by problems with supply of components as well as by weak order books.
Retail is now restarting after the lockdown. It may be able to recover quicker than manufacturing, but it seems certain that many shops will go out of business.
Construction firms are also cutting jobs, again because of a decline in orders.
The giant food-wholesale multinational Bidfood is cutting jobs, in Australia and New Zealand at least as well as in Britain, because it was geared to supply cafés and the like.
The bosses are calling for a National Recovery Council, and the big unions in the affected sectors, such as Unite and GMB, are making almost indistinguishable calls.
The Labour front bench is saying almost nothing. Evidently Keir Starmer believes that studied moderation and letting the Tories discredit themselves is the answer.
In terms of immediate poll scores he may be right. On 12 June Ipsos Mori reported that Starmer has the best “net approval” rating (% approving minus % disapproving) of any Opposition leader since Blair in his “honeymoon” period in 1994.
But good opinion poll scores won’t save jobs. Workers’ Liberty activists in the unions and the Labour Party will be campaigning for:
• A shorter working week with no loss of pay. Shift to a standard working week of four days or 32 hours.
• Expand public service jobs: in health care, in social care, and elsewhere.
• Take the manufacturing and aviation giants declaring job cuts into public ownership, and reorganise their equipment and workforce skills towards green and socially-useful production.