Jack Whiston, Community rep at Church’s and young worker, spoke at TUC’s virtual 2020 congress on the motion ‘Preventing unemployment and building a better recovery.” You can read his speech below.
“This pandemic has been hard for us all.
It has been particularly difficult for the Footwear industry. During lockdown, stores right across the world closed. This meant that the factory where I work saw a significant reduction in work and inventory piled up.
My colleagues and I were placed on furlough. During that time, I was worried – worried about our livelihoods and how they would be affected.
I love what I do: I am passionate about the industry and I want to see it survive. The shoes that I make are luxurious, beautifully hand crafted and a perfect example of our outstanding manufacturing industry.
The jobs that my colleagues do require skill and they are decent jobs that allow people to support their families. The same applies for manufacturing jobs across the country- not just the people who make shoes but the people who make clothes, cars, electrical goods and more.
Manufacturing may be a small part of the UK economy but it’s an important part – a part where skilled people generate value for the economy.
The crisis has been difficult, but with the right support we can get through it.
If the government does not intervene then there could be mass unemployment. We could see people out of work all across the country.
It’s not right to let businesses fall away because of these exceptional circumstances. It’s not right for working people to lose their good jobs. This crisis is temporary, and Britain’s manufacturing industry is strong. It’s highly productive, interesting and skilled work.
Make no mistake, if mass unemployment does come, it will be a political choice to allow it to happen. With the right interventions, the government can create a plan for recovery that leaves working people better off.
I am still worried, worried about my job, and the jobs of my friends and family. Also as a young person, I am particularly worried about the long-term effects on young people in this country.
But there is also hope, for a brighter future, for young people, and for everyone.”
Community are the recognised union in the UK footwear industry. You can join us here.
Church’s sell luxury shoes, made in Britain. You can visit their website here.
Find out more about Community’s history representing workers across the footwear industry and beyond here.