Fixed targets on carbon emissions for new cars without a plan for managing the transition from combustion engines to alternatively fuelled vehicles could put at least 291,000 jobs in the UK and European car industry at risk by 2030, Unite, the UK’s largest union for car workers said today (Thursday 4 October).

The warning comes as new figures out today showed a fall in new car registrations by 20 per cent in September compared with the same month in 2017. Diesel sales tumbled 42 per cent year-on-year while sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles such as electric rose by just 3.9 per cent.

Today’s car figures follow yesterday’s vote in the European parliament which backed a 45 per cent target for reducing carbon dioxide emissions for new cars by 2030. The UK government’s aim is for all new cars and vans to be zero emission by 2050, with a proposed ban on internal combustion engines and diesel vehicles by 2040.

Criticising the UK government’s lack of planning to protect jobs and skills in the transition from conventional engines to electric to meet the targets, Unite blamed the current perilous state of the UK car industry on UK government ministers’ confusion over diesel and crippling uncertainty over Brexit.

Calling for a ‘just transition’ to electric vehicles Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: “Confusion over diesel, despite the UK making some of the cleanest engines in the car industry, combined with the government’s shambolic handling of Brexit has led to the current crisis in the UK car industry.

“This perilous state will deepen unless the UK government develops a detailed action plan to meet the emission targets proposed at both a UK and European level. This means going over and above the ministers’ current piecemeal offering with an approach that protects jobs and develops skills as the car industry moves to alternatively powered vehicles.

“Unite echoes the concerns raised by both IndustriAll Europe and the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association that arbitrary targets in both the UK and Europe are unachievable without a serious transition strategy. The European Union and the UK needs to take into account hybrid engines which should not be subject to a ban as they are a bridge between internal combustion engines and electric.

“The market alone will not overcome the barriers to mass consumer take up of electric and alternatively powered vehicles or deliver the infrastructure investment needed. National governments need to lead the way with the massive investment needed.

“UK car workers need government investment and action to ensure our world beating car industry meets the challenges of the future and continues to be a source for quality well paid jobs.”

Unite is working closely with its sister union in Germany, IG Metall, who have recently taken part in a study by the Fraunhofer Institute. The study found that an automotive fleet composed of 40 per cent hybrid and of 25 per cent fully electric vehicles in 2030, a scenario mirroring proposals from the European parliament, would mean that 108,000 direct jobs are at risk.

As each direct job in the automotive industry creates 1.7 indirect jobs in the supply chain, it would mean that without a transition plan the European parliament’s proposals would put at least 291,000 jobs at risk by 2030.

Unite is calling for a European wide impact study mirroring the German study which focuses on mass volume manufacturers and regional supply chains.


For more information please contact Alex Flynn Unite head of media and campaigns on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869 

Notes to editors:

Unite represents workers in Britain and Ireland with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.