Page last updated at 18:21 GMT, Friday, 15 May 2009 19:21 UK

'Manufacturing is dying'

By Clare Babbidge
BBC News

Workers from across the UK are protesting in a march in Birmingham to call on the government to "halt the jobs crisis". Here one woman recounts her experience of losing her job.

When Dagmar Rathbone, 51, went into work on a grey November Monday, the last thing she expected was to lose her job.

Car firm generic
About 20,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost, Unite says

"It was two days before payday and we were called into a meeting and told there was no money to pay us or to pay out other bills. It was such a shock," she said.

Mrs Rathbone had worked at Alunna Tubes in Redditch, Worcestershire, for nine years.

She said there had been warnings of redundancies a month before, but she did not expect the whole workforce of about 180 people to go.

'Devastating' day

Mrs Rathbone, from Droitwich, Worcestershire, said the aluminium tube maker had been set up in the 1940s and workers were sad to see it go into administration.

"I haven't seen anything like that day," she said.

March in Birmingham in 2000
A rally in Birmingham called for jobs to be saved at Rover in 2000

"Grown men were crying. They liked their jobs. They moaned about them, like everybody does, but in essence they liked what they did. It was devastating."

Mrs Rathborne got a job in export sales eight weeks after losing her job.

"I was one of the lucky ones," she said.

"But other people are still out of work.

"Some I know, in their 60s and late-50s, may never work again."

Mrs Rathborne, a Unite union member, said she felt strongly the government should do more to help manufacturing.

She will be among people from across the UK at Saturday's rally, which has been organised by her union.

Unite said Birmingham was chosen for its national March for Jobs because almost one-in-10 people in the West Midlands was now unemployed, and that 88% of the region's job losses had come from manufacturing.

Workers from Jaguar Land Rover, GKN and LDV, who have all made redundancies, are expected to be among those marching to the city's Centenary Square.

There's a lot of rumours flying around about the job cuts, which doesn't help morale
Stein Dunne
Axa employee

Unite is calling for measures including short-time working subsidies to keep people in work, more state aid for businesses and greater protection from redundancy.

Mrs Rathborne said other European countries provided more help to manufacturing, such as low-interest loans to help firms grow, subsidies and training.

"If people are made redundant their skills are lost forever," she said.

She said the march aimed to urge the government to invest more in workers and their skills.

"In this country manufacturing is dying," she said.

"It's sad when it was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution and now it's the poor man of Europe."

She added: "In order to survive this country has to produce something. The service industry is not enough.

"If it (the government) can put billions of pounds into banks, why can't it put millions of pounds into saving manufacturing?"

Unite regional secretary Gerard Coyne said that since the recession took hold, 20,000 manufacturing jobs had been lost in UK manufacturing, as well as thousands more in other sectors such as finance.

'Investment' for future

Stein Dunne, a Unite union representative at insurers Axa in Coventry, said workers there were facing "an uncertain future".

Centenery Square
The march will end at Centenary Square

Mr Dunne, 37, said people had been worried since January when they learnt more than 350 jobs were at risk as work was to be outsourced.

"I have worked in this sector since I was 18," he said. "A job in financial services used to be considered a job for life."

Mr Dunne, who has a young family, including a four-month-old baby, said it was a worrying time.

"There's a lot of rumours flying around about the job cuts, which doesn't help morale," he said.

"But it's a case of just wait-and-see."

He said public confidence in the financial industry had been hit by the recession and the reports of big bonuses, but he said the reality was that most people received modest incomes.

He wanted more protection for workers and greater investment in the "green" industry.

Mr Dunne, who will be marching with his family, added: "Most people just want to work and I don't think that's too much to ask really."

The Department for Business said the government was "absolutely focused" on supporting workers and firms through the global recession.

It added that it was also aiding future recovery by investment.

"We have just announced an increase to the minimum wage, plans to increase the rights of agency workers and an increase in statutory redundancy pay for those who lose their jobs," a spokesman added.

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