Skip to main content

GMB Congress 2022 More than 170,000 manufacturing jobs were lost during the Covid-19 pandemic, union warns

MORE than 170,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost across Britain during the Covid-19 pandemic, the GMB union warned today.

The damning figures, revealed on the second day of the general union’s annual congress in Harrogate, show that 170,400 jobs in the sector disappeared between 2019 and 2021.

The significant fall — from 2.9 million permanent and temporary manufacturing jobs three years ago to 2.7m at the start of 2022 —represents a drop of almost 6 per cent, the GMB stressed.

Every region and nation in Britain has suffered a decline, but the worst-hit area, the East Midlands, lost more than 31,000 jobs — about a tenth of the region’s manufacturing positions.  

The union accused Tory ministers of lacking an national industrial strategy which is encouraging bosses to outsource work overseas. 

Instead, the government should be using the need to transition to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 to “revolutionise” the sector, it urged. 

National officer Charlotte Childs said: “Almost 200,000 manufacturing jobs lost is devastating for communities.

“Unless ministers address this urgently there could be worse to come.

“The race to net zero could revolutionise UK manufacturing — tens of thousands of new, green jobs in wind, solar, nuclear, and more.

“Instead, this government seems determined to let them all disappear overseas.”

The union has issued repeated warnings about the sector’s shrinking workforce over the last 15 years. 

In 2007, Britain supported 3.5m permanent and temporary manufacturing jobs, but the sector’s level of output has been in decline seen the 2008 financial crash, which saw hundreds of companies going bust or moving production abroad.

Low oil prices and the slump in sterling’s value helped manufacturers to increase exports during 2016 and 2017, but Brexit uncertainty disrupted this fragile recovery.

Since then, the country’s steel manufacturing sector in particular has been hit by falling demand during the pandemic, crippling energy prices and former US president Donald Trump’s 25 per cent tariff on steel imports, imposed in 2018 but only eased in March. 

Tory ministers have seemed reluctant to offer financial support to the industry, despite the many challenges. 

The GMB, which traces its origins back to 1889, represents more than 500,000 members in the public and private sectors across a variety of industries, including the NHS, social care, schools, retail and utilities. 


We're a reader-owned co-operative, which means you can become part of the paper too by buying shares in the People’s Press Printing Society.

Become a supporter

Fighting fund

You've Raised:£ 3.685
We need:£ 14,315
25 Days remaining
Donate today