Byline: Jon Griffin Business Editor
ONE of the West Midlands' key industrial sectors is fighting back in style against the threat of cheap imports - with the launch of a vital new umbrella group.
On the surface, the regional clothing industry may not carry the cachet of the Midlands' long-established automotive sector, with its decades of support of tens of thousands of jobs.
But the recent formation of the Solihull-based Clothing Trades Alliance represents a significant move in the fight to safeguard the future of around 7,000 Midland jobs against cutprice overseas competition.
The Alliance has already signed up 37 organisations from throughout the region to take their place in the vanguard of the battle to save clothing manufacturers the length and breadth of the Midlands.
General secretary of the Alliance is Jim Swift, with 20 years experience in the clothing trade, who is helping to spearhead the fledgling movement.
Mr Swift said: 'Unless UK industry, and West Midland industry in particular, can meet the new challenges, then mass unemployment is inevitable.
'It is generally agreed that the regional industry employs over 7,000, most of which is made up of Asian women, the most vulnerable employment sector.
'This puts the industry on a par with the implications of a Longbridge shutdown.
'Clothing manufacturers are at their wits' end trying to replace lost business, lost mainly because retailers have changed their buying policy to meet consumer preference for bargain-priced clothing.
'That these policies are putting employment in the UK to the sword is not a substantial issue considering that the Government does not consider the industry in the West Midlands sufficiently important to include it within the regional priorities.'
But Mr Swift, formerly general manager of exhibitions at the NEC, said the regional clothing sector was not 'all doom and gloom.'
'The industry is hitting back through the formation of the Clothing Trades Alliance to meet its needs. …