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UK union Unite backs electric vehicles

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Britain’s largest union has issued a roadmap for the UK car industry to embrace electric vehicles

Unite, the UK’s biggest union, has urged the British government to embrace electric vehicle technology.

In a report, the union laid out its plan to retain skills and jobs during the transition from petrol and diesel to electric technology. Unite claimed that government inactivity was the biggest barrier to investment and innovation in the fledgling industry.

“Unite is clear. We want investment in new sustainable technology. We want to see high-skilled secure jobs on decent pay and for the UK automotive sector to hold its own against Germany, the United States, Southern Asia and China,” said Unite general secretary Len McCluskey in the report.

In addition to advocating for more investment in R&D and infrastructure, Unite called for a national car scrappage scheme to promote the adoption of electric vehicles.

The union wants to see more incentives for electric vehicles, including grants from local authorities to taxi drivers.

Appropriately, the union also called for trade union rights and legal protections for workers. These include legally backed safety standards for driverless vehicles and defending the role of drivers in the transportation industry.

The union also backed solidarity with trade unions in places where the materials for lithium batteries were produced.

“The cost and scarcity of these critical metals could prove a major hurdle, raising supply issues for industry and ethical issues for trade unions,” the report stated. “Unite demands a commitment from manufacturers that supply chains must be ethical, transparent and free of any child-labour abuses. Cobalt and Lithium should be treated like gold or diamonds from conflict zones, with independent supervision and strict regulation of supply, including trade unions from the global south.”

Unite wants the UK government to secure Britain’s capacity to produce electric vehicles and their components. “While BMW’s new electric Mini will be assembled in Cowley from 2019, the fact the electric powertrain and electric batteries will be imported from Germany shows the urgent need to develop UK capability,” said Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing Tony Burke in the report.

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