Liverpool businesses must consider the bigger picture

Posted by Jenny Stewart

Chief Executive of Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Fri 24th, Mar

This week, I went on record on behalf of Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce to urge the RMT Union to withdraw its intention to strike on Grand National day.

I understand some of the very real concerns raised about the proposed introduction of driver-only operated trains on Merseyrail. I also fully respect the right of workers to take action on issues about which they feel strongly.

But, on the biggest day of the year for Liverpool's visitor economy when we have a global TV audience of 600m people, the timing could not be worse.

Clearly there are fundamental and entrenched positions on both sides of this dispute – but it seems to me that those could be best resolved through sensible and considered negotiation.

Using the biggest day of Liverpool’s sporting and social calendar as a negotiating tactic is disappointing, to say the least.

The Grand National offers a massive annual boost to hundreds of businesses across the entire region.

This action by the RMT will not only inconvenience residents and visitors but sends totally the wrong message at a time when we are working hard to market ourselves in an international arena.

And this does open up a wider discussion around Liverpool's global identity.

We present Liverpool as a forward-thinking city, a place on the up, a location that understands and utilises technology and digital advancements to do business better - somewhere that is prime for inward investment.

But in fact, in terms of productivity, there is a lot of work to be done. The UK lags behind Germany by 35% and output in the North West is further behind again.

The North-South divide shows no sign of shrinking, there are undeniable challenges around improving productivity in the North – and it is time business leaders rose to those challenges.

The rise of the so-called ‘gig economy’ – freelancers, short-term workers and independent contractors lured by the idea of more flexible working – is threatening the retention of talent within our workplaces. But what can we do about it?

Simple measures can make a huge difference.

Let’s look at upskilling, life-long learning, financial incentivisation. Lets alter our working practices, lose the colloquial minsdet and accept change. Lets scale-up, create jobs and win clients.

Let’s really think of the bigger picture and start looking out instead of in. Only then can we really, really begin to compete.

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