The union is calling for the government to enter into urgent meaningful talks on a ‘just transition’ with the car industry and Unite in order to defend employment for thousands of jobs in diesel engine production, and for a truly workable policy to be fully developed, which will avoid damaging the UK’s automobile manufacturing sector.

Infrastructure investment

In particular Unite believes for the government’s electric car plans to be successful there needs to be far more investment in the UK’s infrastructure, to drive the demand for electric cars, including battery production, recycling and charging.

As well as greatly increasing the number of charging points, there needs to be uniformity in how drivers are charged and for re-charging times to be minimised. The government’s proposals have principally focussed on the potential requirement that all new homes will be built with charging points.

National Grid capacity

The increase in the use of electric cars will also require the capacity of the National Grid to be increased, Unite believes.

Hybrid Engines

Unite also believes that in order for the automobile sector to be properly supported the government will need to recognise and support the use of hybrid engines in the ‘just transition’ to electric vehicles.

Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: “Unite supports the just transition to electric cars but this must not be at the expense of the UK’s automotive industry and supply chain.

“After years of confusion and indecision the government’s latest policy lacks direction, fails to tackle the huge infrastructure changes needed for drivers to be able to use their vehicles and lacks detail on jobs and future employment.

“At this time of huge economic uncertainty the government is in severe danger of further damaging the car industry due to a failure to fully appreciate the challenges of introducing electric cars.

“If the proposals for all cars to be electric by 2040 are to be met, then the government needs to avoid unilateral off the cuff statements by ministers and politicians and properly consult industry and unions.

“Unite is working with employers, international unions including our sister union IG Metall in Germany, in how we defend jobs, create new skills and ensure the UK maintains its position as a world leader in the automotive industry.”


Notes to editors:

Unite’s ‘Just Transition’ for diesel includes:

  • Ensuring vehicles which fulfil Euro 6 regulations can drive in any new ultra-low emissions zones
  • That central, regional and local governments must work on transition plans with trade unions and industry before unilaterally announcing any ban dates on diesel in urban areas
  • There must be investment to support re-skilling of the existing diesel workforce
  • There must be investment to help the supply chain re-tool and re-skill
  • Transitional measures should include improving Euro 6 diesel vehicles further – with better filtration systems for new vehicles, and retro fitting both filtration systems and AdBlue for older vehicles.

The above points are included in Unite’s broader strategy: Electric Vehicles, Autonomous Technology and Future Mobility launched in March 2018.

For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235. Email:

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.