Gordon Brown has been told his jobs summit had ‘missed the mark’ as West Midlands workers suffered their darkest day since the collapse of Rover.
As the Prime Minister pledged to help 500,000 people back to work with a series of cash incentives to employers, some of the region’s largest employers including JCB, Waterford Wedgwood and Wincanton announced massive jobs cuts as they struggled to navigate the deepening recession.
In total almost 1,700 redundancies were announced in the region on Monday - the worst day since the collapse of Rover in 2005 when nearly 6,000 workers lost their jobs.
Kiran Virk, policy adviser at Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry, welcomed the government’s plans to increase apprenticeships and launch a new internship programme but felt that saving jobs should be its immediate priority.
“We are concerned that it should be doing more to protect existing jobs, particularly in the car manufacturing sector,” she said.
“Taking on more staff in the present economic climate, as the Government is suggesting, would be unwise as local businesses struggle to gain orders and therefore work for their current workforce.”
Ms Virk said the biggest issue facing manufacturers was finance, a view supported by EEF Chief Economist, Steve Radley. He said: “These are laudable proposals which will benefit those companies looking to recruit. However, at a time when we are facing a wave of job losses, proposals focused on helping people back into work are missing the mark.
“The main priority for manufacturers right now is to keep the skilled workforce that they already have and maintain cashflow. Above all else government policy must focus on easing the flow of credit and restoring financial liquidity.”
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of JCB, agreed that the Government should spend money on trying to stop workers losing their jobs in the first place, contrasting the position in JCB’s German factory, where employees are on a two-day week, with the Government making up wages to avoid any lay-offs.
Their comments come as talks continued between the government and Jaguar Land Rover over a financial package to help the Tata-owned group through the credit crunch - a move backed by a campaign in the Birmingham Post and four other major regional titles.
Business Secretary Peter Mandelson reiterated his position that the government should be the final port of call for the car maker although has not ruled out a potential deal.