Since the collapse of Carillion, which saw the loss of directly employed staff as well as job losses elsewhere in the supply chain, there have been numerous other firm closures and resultant jobs lost across the Scottish labour market in the last five months.
Yesterday’s announcement of 287 jobs going at Crummock’s engineering firm in Bonnyrigg is another blow to the construction sector in Scotland. The multidisciplinary construction company went into receivership after last year’s budget noted the absence of contracts from the Scottish Government and shrinking local authority budgets were the biggest risk to the business which had previously been involved in a number of civil engineering projects around Scotland, including the installation of concrete slabs in St Andrews Square for the Edinburgh Trams
Outwith construction, jobs have been lost across Scotland in our primary market: the service industry. The Royal Bank of Scotland’s 62 branch closures in Scotland will result in 179 job losses. The list of retail stores announcing closures and redundancies across Scotland includes Toys ‘R’ Us, Maplin, New Look, Bench, Jaeger, Marks and Spencer’s, and Poundworld. The proposed merger between Asda and Sainsbury’s is likely to see further jobs lost.
Scotland’s recent job losses have been across many fields, from those classed as unskilled to highly skilled roles at Rosyth and BiFab which cut to the heart of the Government’s economic, industrial and energy strategies.
Whilst a new South of Scotland enterprise agency is proposed, Young’s Seafood has just announced the closure of Pinneys fish-processing plant in Dumfries and Galloway. Coupled with the proposed closure of Two Sisters meat processing plant in Annan, this will mean a loss of 900 jobs in the South of Scotland.
In an era where we already have stagnant wage growth, rising housing costs, and increasing mental ill health which is in part caused by economic conditions of precarity and insecurity, further job losses in Scotland are going to have a significant impact on our lives and communities.
There is an urgent need to assess current activities around enterprise, skills and industry in order to identify a strategy regarding areas and sectors to be invested in. This investment must be in workplaces which mean Fair Work jobs. Not only does this drive inclusive growth in the economy, but goes a long way to addressing people’s everyday life issues. Reducing poverty, decreasing addiction levels, reducing the education attainment gap, and increasing money in people’s pockets will not happen if thousands more jobs are lost in Scotland or are moved from secure to precarious positions.
Scotland desperately needs a comprehensive industrial strategy which takes heed of our trade union values. We cannot continue to have an ad hoc response to industrial closures and job losses. Instead, industry sector forums should be established which ensure genuine collective bargaining across sectors which are able to strategically plan for our import and export industries. This is particularly important considering the uncertainty around Scotland’s constitutional future post-Brexit.
Only by ensuring a coherent and planned industrial strategy which is backed up by investment in research, skills and training, as well as by worker involvement in this planning through collective bargaining and alternative forms of ownership, can we begin to tackle the issues at the heart of our economy, tackling inequality and raising living standards. We simply cannot afford, nor can we accept, Scotland’s people facing another generation of penury.