You can read Sharon's latest Echo Column below or on the Sunderland Echo website
I can’t imagine many people in the region missed the news coming from Nissan last week, and rightly so.
This three-headline announcement has the potential to transform our country’s automotive industry and is an incredible vote of confidence in our region’s world-class workforce.
Firstly, Sunderland will move full throttle towards its aim of being a carbon-free city by 2040, providing green jobs and clean energy with the construction of a ‘microgrid’.
This microgrid will then power a Gigafactory, which will be producing batteries for electric vehicles as we race towards the 2030 ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars.
And finally, to match the increasing demand for electric vehicles, Nissan have announced their next electric model will be built in Sunderland.
This collaboration between Nissan, AESC Envision, and Sunderland City Council, with support from the Government, is a result of incredible hard work.
But let’s not forget, the automotive industry was pushed to a cliff edge last year awaiting Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal which came through at the very last minute.
The deal emphasised the necessity for a domestic battery-manufacturing industry which for years has been highlighted by Nissan, local stakeholders and in Parliament by myself and colleagues, in order to meet the 2030 electrification goal and the moving goalposts of the UK-EU trade deal.
The Gigafactory commitment is therefore a massive sigh of relief for us all, and will pioneer the way ahead for British batteries.
The Sunderland plant has truly been certified as the jewel in the Nissan crown, with our region reaping the economic and employment rewards. In the North East, we all know people employed by Nissan or its supply chain, so we should all be very proud that their hard work has brought us here.
I will continue to showcase our automotive superpower in Parliament; a job that will be significantly easier after last week’s announcement.
Following today's statement by Nissan (01.07.21) please see below Sharon's statement:
"I am thrilled with Nissan’s announcements which have the potential to transform car-making in the UK.
"Nissan’s confidence to make their next electric vehicle model in Sunderland is testament to the incredible skill of our region’s world-class workforce, and certifies the Sunderland plant’s position as the jewel in the Nissan crown.
"Having worked closely with Nissan to raise in Parliament the necessity of investment in battery technology for the long-term success of operations, I am delighted to see firm commitment with the announcement of a local Gigafactory.
"This is a massive sigh of relief for us all and will help the UK as we move through complex trading arrangements towards the 2030 electrification goal, as well as bringing a further 6,200 high quality jobs across the whole supply chain.
"I will continue to work closely with Nissan to help build and support a localised supply chain for components, so that tariff-free trade can continue in the coming years.
"This announcement is also testament to Sunderland City Council’s dedication to becoming a city of the future, providing green energy, green jobs and green investment.
"This collaboration between Sunderland Council, Nissan, Envision AESC with support from the Government will ensure that Nissan stays on the map as a global automotive superpower, with our region reaping the rewards.
"The North-East fuelled the industrial revolution with coal, and 200 years later we are taking a leading role in the development of the green revolution with our automotive giant - we should all be very proud."
You can read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website
Last week, a parliamentary session lasting over sixteen months ended. The State Opening of a new session will take place next Tuesday, where, following a centuries old tradition, the Queen will visit Parliament and read out a list of the Conservative Government’s priorities for the year ahead.
The first test for the Conservatives in this Queen’s Speech will be to commit once more to securing jobs and backing our local businesses, helping people across the North East, rather than lining the pockets of their mates with dodgy contracts worth millions of pounds.
In Government, Labour would work with private enterprise to create the next generation of high-skilled jobs, and get people into work, training or education, while ensuring the protection of public sector jobs. Labour’s priority is to see jobs protected by holding the Tories to account and by working hard locally to support businesses, trade unions and employees.
We know that the easing of restrictions will help us see many people return to work. But many will not. This Queen’s Speech follows a national report by Green Alliance which shows Washington and Sunderland West has the highest Labour Market Challenge Score (the greatest combination of pre- and post-pandemic unemployment), scoring 239, compared with the national average of 100. This shows that Washington and Sunderland West will have the highest employment challenge nationwide post-pandemic.
It is clear that it will take our community a long time to rebuild; and it is only the Labour Party whose priorities lie firmly with rebuilding our communities and securing the future of our jobs.
Ten years of Conservative austerity cuts have left our councils cash-strapped, while pay for key workers has decreased in real terms. The pandemic only exacerbated the deep-rooted inequalities already present, while favours were provided for those who have ministers in their Whatsapp contacts.
There’s no reason we can’t have job security, more opportunities, high streets we are proud of, and public services that put people first: the Government just has to prioritise them.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to remind readers to use their vote today in our local elections for Councillors and the Police and Crime Commissioner. Our council has worked hard to ensure that this can be done in Covid-safe manner. Results should be known by midday Friday.
Following her PMQ in December 2020, Sharon once again called on the Government to use the upcoming Queen's Speech to ban fire and rehire practices.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship today, Mrs Murray. I begin by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Kate Osborne) on securing her first Westminster Hall debate on such an important subject and her excellent speech. It is also a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery).
I first raised fire and rehire with the Prime Minister on 16 December 2020 at Prime Minister’s Question Time, after highly skilled engineers at Centrica British Gas were told they had to sign new contracts before Christmas or else they would be fired and rehired in the new year on worse terms. The Prime Minister’s response was deeply concerning:
“it is also vital that we have a flexible economy that is able to generate jobs, particularly when we are going to go through a very difficult and bumpy time.”—[Official Report, 16 December 2020; Vol. 686, c. 272.]
During this “very difficult and bumpy time”, as the Prime Minister put it, is exactly when people need stability and certainty in their lives. Yet according to Unite the Union, one in 10 workers is already threatened with fire and rehire, and many more are likely to face this manipulative process as furlough comes to an end.
Earlier this month, I was saddened to see approximately 350 British Gas engineers lose their jobs because they refused to sign a contract with worse terms and pay. Equally sad is the thousands upon thousands of other GMB members at British Gas signing new but worse contracts under duress. Yet when my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson) raised it with the Prime Minister just last week, he was not even aware of the issue. Four months on from my question, hundreds have been sacked and the Prime Minister still does not have an answer.
It is not just British Gas engineers either; fire and rehire is also used by British Airways in Heathrow, and I am sure my right hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) will go into further detail on those disputes. Go North West drivers have been on strike for more than 50 days, while Jacobs Douwe Egberts coffee producers is starting an indefinite overtime ban on International Workers Day, 1 May, and engineers at Brush Electrical Machines are balloting for action against pay cuts of up to £15,000.
Fire and rehire is an exploitative and illegitimate negotiation tactic that causes real hurt and anger. Household names have betrayed decades of trust from the nation. These tactics damage not only their workforces but their customer base, who will feel the same way at the disgraceful way those businesses treat their employees. The Government have an opportunity with the upcoming Queen’s Speech to work with Labour and the relevant trade unions such as Unite and the GMB to introduce vital legislation that will ban fire and rehire practices and give workers the stability and assurances that they need at this—again in the Prime Minister’s own words—“very difficult and bumpy time”.
Sharon Hodgson MP, Shadow Minister for Veterans, has today (Tuesday 20th April) hosted a virtual roundtable on veterans’ employment in the North East.
The roundtable, which was also attended by Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, John Healey MP, was the first of a series of events by the Labour Defence Team in the region.
The roundtable was also attended by Labour’s candidate in the Hartlepool by-election, Dr Paul Williams, local Labour Party Armed Forces Champions in the region and University of Sunderland and SHAID St Peter’s Court as recipients of the Gold Defence Employer Recognition Scheme.
During the event, veterans and former clients of Project Nova* and Sporting Force spoke about their experiences of leaving the military and finding employment and training.
Participants in the roundtable heard about the impact Covid has had on the job market and how crucial charities have been, especially in the last year, in supporting veterans into training, employment, housing and getting mental health support.
It is estimated that 84% of service leavers who used the Career Transition Partnership (CTP) in 2019/20 were employed within six months of leaving the Armed Forces.
But the roundtable also heard that on some occasions it might be years after leaving the military before a veteran presents at a charity or local service for support on getting training or employment.
The Armed Forces Bill, which will put some of the Armed Forces Covenant into law, is making its way through Parliament.
The Bill will put commitments made in the Covenant on health, housing and education into law, but the Bill currently omits employment.
Labour is backing our veterans by calling on all remits of the Covenant to be put into law.
John Healey MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence said:
“Our Forces Personnel go above and beyond to protect us and it is only right that when they leave service and transition back into civilian life, they are given the support they need. That is why we must reinforce the Armed Forces Covenant so no veteran is disadvantaged by their service.”
Sharon Hodgson MP, Shadow Minister for Veterans said:
“Veterans’ employment is one of the key issues missing from the Government’s plan to put some of the Armed Forces Covenant into law.
“That’s why Labour is shining a light on how important veterans’ employment is not only to the veterans, but to the workplace too in the unique skills and experiences they offer.
”The Government should back Labour’s calls to put all aspects of the Armed Forces Covenant, including employment, into law via the Armed Forces Bill.”
Alistair Halliday, Chief Executive of RFEA – The Forces Employment Charity said:
“Regardless of age, years of service, rank or specialisation, people who have served in the Armed Forces possess fine qualities, such as self-motivation; a ‘can-do’ attitude, great team skills, a ready sense of humour, coupled with a desire to do their best and help others, which makes veterans a brilliant addition to the civilian workforce. However, those who have served in the Military often have limited experience of applying for civilian jobs and can find it difficult translating their relevant Services experience to meet non-Military job descriptions, putting them at a disadvantage. This event was an excellent opportunity to highlight the value and relevance of ex-Forces personnel to politicians and civilian employers alike.”
Tommy Lowther, Founder and CEO of Sporting Force said:
“It was a pleasure to join the Labour Party’s roundtable on veterans’ employment and showcase the work of Sporting Force here in the North East but also across the country.
“Veterans sometimes require additional support and Sporting Force offers that in abundance. We provide employment opportunities within the sports sector as well as lots of different adventure training activities to help tackle social isolation among the veteran community.”
Notes to editors
• *Project Nova, delivered in partnership between RFEA and Walking With The Wounded, is there to offer help to those who have been arrested and enter Police Custody. It also supports Veterans who are referred by specialist Police teams, or other statutory organisations, because they are at risk of arrest. The scheme was launched in 2014 and currently operates across South Yorkshire and Humberside, the North East, North West, Midlands, South West and East of England.
• About RFEA: RFEA – The Forces Employment Charity – exists to provide life-long, life-changing support, job opportunities, and training to service leavers, reservists, veterans and their families, irrespective of circumstances, rank, length of service, or reason for leaving. Founded in 1885 and operating across the UK, we have the specialist knowledge and understanding to bridge the gap between military life and civilian employment. We work in partnership with other organisations and employers who, like us, respect and value the unique qualities and abilities of all those who have served. www.rfea.org.uk; www.twitter.com/RFEA_UK; www.facebook.com/RFEATheForcesEmploymentCharity/
• About Sporting Force: Sporting Force provides support to ex-service personnel, offering a route into civilian employment within the professional sports industry. Sporting Force help veterans and their families by offering education, exercise and social events to help relieve mental health and social isolation. All the opportunities Sporting Force offer are inclusive and can be adapted to meet the needs of disabled veterans. https://www.sportingforce.org/; https://twitter.com/sportingforce; https://www.facebook.com/sportingforce
Sharon has today (30th December 2020) raised in Parliament the importance of Nissan to the North East and called on the Government to help build and support a local supply chain, so that tariff-free trade can continue in the coming years.
During her speech, Sharon said:
“Nissan in my constituency is the largest Nissan Plant in Europe, proving the North East’s worth to the world's automotive industry and it must continue to be so in the post-Brexit world.”
Sharon also called on the Government to invest in a local battery supply chain, so that the UK automotive industry can meet the Rules of Origin criteria set by the deal, by 2024, so that tariff-free trade can continue.
After the debate, Sharon said:
“Sunderland voted to leave and I know that my constituents will be pleased that a Deal has been achieved and successfully voted on in the Commons.
“The Deal is by no means a perfect one, but it can be built upon in the future.
“My priority now is championing the North East and ensuring that our area benefits from investment by battery manufacturers in the coming years so that the UK automotive industry can continue to thrive, without trade tariffs or barriers.”
Sharon voted in favour of the trade deal with the EU, saying it was “in the national interest to do so”.
The deal passed in the House of Commons by 521 to 73.
You can watch Sharon’s speech on Facebook here >
During Prime Minister's Questions, Sharon today called on Boris Johnson to urge Centrica British Gas to halt their fire and re-hire plans for skilled workers and return to the negotiation table with workers and their Union, the GMB. Sharon also called on the Government to introduce legislation to outlaw fire and re-hire once and for all.
You can watch Sharon's Question and the Prime Minister's response on the below links:
You can also visit the GMB Union website here >