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 Letter: Leather industry could lead the way in British manufacturing

Letter: Leather industry could lead the way in British manufacturing

2021-08-02

来源:https://www.ft.com/

作者:

The French leather Industry came to mind when reading Sarah O’Connor’s column (“Nostalgia for manufacturing won’t bring better jobs for UK workers”, Opinion, July 21). When I started out some decades ago, workers in almost every tannery rushed to show you missing tops of fingers as a badge of honour. Those days have gone, and today’s tanneries offer good quality employment. A feature of the leather industry is the way in which labour content increases as a hide moves from the raw to a finished shoe, glove or train seat. While modernisation has reduced labour numbers within tanneries, turning leather into handbags and saddles requires judgments that machines cannot yet manage.

A year or two ago, France had 44 tanneries employing around 1,500 people but over 1,000 leather-goods makers with more than 20,000 staff and 100-plus shoemakers employing 6,000 people. This escalation in the numbers employed is what South Korea and Taiwan used to escape from poverty in the 1960s and 1970s. Adding in retail and other leather users — in gloves, upholstery and garments — the French leather industry believes that over 100,000 people are employed in the wider leather trade, with a turnover of €25bn, according to France’s National Leather Council. Leather industry jobs do not all require high levels of education, but instead the acquisition of useful skills. Utilising leather, manufactured from the waste of the meat and dairy industry, we see the balance of design, craft and engineering for which some of our best companies are famous.

The UK today has only 25 tanneries and over half our hides and nearly all sheepskins are exported or thrown away. Bringing back some production could reap big benefits. The country does still retain world-leading high-end producers of leather for most sectors. Most, but not all, end up being turned into beautiful products in workshops that offer secure, well-paid jobs outside Britain. If the UK could retain more of these jobs, there would be employment for considerable numbers of those who rightly concern O’Connor: accompanied by many of the high-quality service activities in design, marketing, finance and digital retail that they require, with a domestic supply chain making all ESG issues much easier to keep transparent. Michael Redwood Somerton, Somerset, UK

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