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The government’s refusal to adopt an active industrial strategy and decisively support manufacturing industries such as steel is leaving the UK lagging behind in the productivity stakes warned Britain’s largest union, Unite.

The warning follows today’s (Thursday 18 February) official figures showing that in manufacturing the UK was 24 per cent less productive than Germany, 18 per cent less productive than France and 45 per cent less productive than the USA.

According to the Office for National Statistics figures, output per hour across the UK economy in 2014 was 18 per cent below the average for the rest of the major G7 advanced economies, representing the widest productivity gap since comparable estimates began in 1991.

Commenting Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: “The government’s failure to adopt an active industrial strategy is holding back the UK’s productivity in manufacturing and leading to the loss of vital skills in key industries such as steel.

“A low waged, low skilled economy built on precarious and insecure work will see the UK’s productivity gap continue to grow and fail to deliver sustainable economic growth.

“Government ministers need to ask themselves why France with its 35 hour working week and Germany where trade unions are embraced as partners in productivity are both streets ahead of the UK.

“Working longer for less to boost productivity is not the answer. We need a coherent plan for skills and an industrial strategy that invests and nurtures manufacturing for the future. Not the current ‘hands free’, laissez-faire approach of government ministers.

“Government ministers and businesses also need to wake up to fact that a happy and secure workforce, with trade union representation is a more productive one.”