I am genuinely pleased that the Tory Metro Mayor, Ben Houchen, has come out in support of the GMB union and its members at the Wilton site in Redcar. Their issue is wages and terms and conditions being undercut by huge companies using agencies to employ cheap labour, instead of employing local people directly on nationally agreed terms and conditions and decent pay. Of course, there will always be a need for specialist skilled labour to be brought in where there is a skills gap but as the Mayor alludes to, what’s the point of him and the Labour leaders who form the Combined Authority bringing investment into Teesside if it doesn’t generate local jobs?
In the same breath I am trusting the Mayor in his verve to support the GMB will also be extending his solidarity to their members at Durham Tees Valley Airport. During my time as a Trade Union Official I was fortunate enough to be deployed on the airport during which I got to know people like my mate Dave from Hartlepool very well. Some of us will be able to remember flying from the then Teesside Airport on package holidays, certainly I once flew to Paris from there on a family trip to Disneyland, but those truly are distant memories and air traffic has dramatically dwindled over the years. Many of the staff, particularly those with technical skills like Flight Control Operators, could have easily moved to better paid jobs at other airports but right across the piece their loyalty to DTVA has been commendable. Every single employee has been affected by review after review under the management of Peel Holdings and have made endless sacrifices to keep the place going. The last battle, still not implemented, was the decision by Peel to pull out of the Local Government Pension Scheme and passport staff onto less favourable schemes. Ben Houchen has declared he has a rescue deal for the airport which involves handing £40 Million to Peel, which to be fair was an election pledge, and even though we need to look at the business case to see if it is viable I sincerely hope he recognises the sacrifices workers have made and reverses the decision on people’s pensions.
The Combined Authority clearly has big ambitions and I am working with them and the Mayor to make sure Hartlepool gets its fair slice of the cake. Our business leaders are ambitious and forward thinking like Orange Box Solutions and Hart Biologicals; we have a strong manufacturing base, both big and small; we are a major player in the steel, nuclear and offshore gas and oil industries and we are a growing centre of excellence in platform decommissioning. With the right vision and investment and the right focus on rebuilding skills, getting young people into Apprenticeship’s and creating meaningful jobs we can create sustainable businesses and employment here. Our people and economy both deserve it and need it especially post Brexit.
On the subject of which, it’s been a bizarre week in Westminster. The Prime Minister pulls the ‘meaningful vote’ at the 11th hour because, by her own admission, she would lose it, a leadership challenge has been triggered and total chaos reigns on the Government benches. The Brexit clock is ticking and they need to get a grip.