Skills are key to growth, say professionals


Skills are key to growth, say professionals

Professional workers from across the public and private sectors will this week add their voice to calls for government to boost the economy with a programme of investment in skills and infrastructure.

Delegates to the biennial conference of the 120,000-strong Prospect union will vote on a series of motions urging ministers to launch an active industrial strategy that will aid the creation of a low-carbon economy, enhance research into new energy sources, speed up delivery of high-speed broadband, and preserve the UK’s capability in defence skills and equipment.

Five hundred delegates from 348 Prospect branches will meet in Bournemouth’s International Conference Centre from May 22-24 under the theme ‘Agenda for a New Economy: people plus skills = growth’.

They will hear outgoing general secretary Paul Noon deplore the failure of the Queen’s Speech to announce any measures to stimulate green or sustainable growth or “to build the kind of highly skilled, knowledge based modern economy needed to meet the challenges we face.”

Noon will welcome new merger partner Aspect and its 4,000 members working in education and childcare into the union, which already represents engineers, scientists, surveyors, IT and telecoms staff, archaeologists, lecturers, meteorologists, power station managers and specialists of all kinds.

In his farewell address before retiring at the end of the year, Noon will say the government’s only plan for growth is to make employment less secure, “as if making it easier to sack people and removing employment rights encourages growth. Of course it never will.”

Several branches have put down motions condemning the increase in the qualifying period for bringing an unfair dismissal claim and similar measures intended to make the employment tribunal process more difficult for claimants to access. Others call on Prospect to defend the rights of trade union reps and to negotiate learning agreements that promote the acquisition of skills.

With pensions under attack from both public and private sector employers, the conference will kick off with a demand for Prospect to campaign against the ‘race to the bottom’ in the provision of occupational pensions.

The union’s national executive is instructed to continue to campaign against the coalition’s damaging attacks on workplace health and safety, backed by frequent resort to unsubstantiated ‘elf ‘n safety’ myths.

Other motions up for debate urge Prospect to:

  • resist the government’s 1% pay curb on public sector workers after two years of pay freeze
  • lobby for increased funding for higher education to improve UK science and competitiveness
  • promote the importance of using professional judgement to provide ‘proportionate’ regulation
  • expand the union’s international development network, especially during the current period of austerity
  • oppose plans to take away child benefit from anyone in the 40% tax bracket.