Unions and federations call for 'manufacturing army' to fight Covid-19

Unite the union has joined forces with the unions representing doctors and nurses to call for a nationwide effort to produce the PPE equipment currently needed by millions of frontline workers.

PPE: vital items needed for frontline workers  Image: Unite
PPE: vital items needed for frontline workers Image: Unite

The BPIF has also backed the unprecedented joint address to the government, by Unite, the British Medical Association, Unison and the Royal College of Nursing.

It calls for manufacturing capacity currently furloughed or under-utilised to be repurposed to produce “PPE kit desperately needed by our NHS, social care providers and other front-line workers across UK industry”.

“Skilled workers are desperate to play their part, using their engineering and manufacturing expertise to ramp up production, under license from existing manufacturers that simply can’t cope with demand or secure essential supplies given the unprecedented demands on raw materials and components,” the statement said.

BMA deputy chair Dr David Wrigley warned that doctors healthcare workers and carers were “risking their lives day-to-day” in the battle against Covid-19.

“They must be protected with proper PPE so they can stay healthy to care for patients safely and stop the spread of this deadly virus.” 

Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing Steve Turner said Unite members “stood ready to deliver” amid the crisis caused by the Covid-19 virus.

"We have plants and people standing idle and underutilised when they could be put to great use in defence of the public's health. 

“Government must now move from soundbite to action and put out a ‘call-to-arms’ to existing providers, materials suppliers and manufacturers,” he said.

Turner said restrictions around copyright, patents and IP could be temporarily lifted, and a “manufacturing army” to produce PPE and other essential supplies could be up and running in a matter of days.

"We showed how UK manufacturing can pull together in the national interest to produce urgently needed medical ventilators and we already have our members at the Royal Mint producing medical visors,” he added.

He pointed out that since a call went out in Northern Ireland last week, more than 100 companies are now producing everything from hand sanitiser to medical scrubs.

“There is no reason why we cannot ramp up production across the UK - with government planning and coordination between those coming forward to provide lifesaving PPE for all; from our NHS to local government, food manufacturing to parcels delivery. Unite’s members stand ready to deliver – government must now make the call.”

BPIF chief executive Charles Jarrold told Printweek why the federation had backed the call to arms: “We have put our name to it because this is something that is in the national interest. We’ve seen what Prime Group and its collaborators have achieved, and this resonates with that.

“I have had calls from members with equipment such as CNC machines that could be used to make essential items. It’s time to be collectively aligned in supporting that.”

ADS Group, which represents the aerospace, defence, security and space sectors has also backed the call.



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