On the eve of the government’s contribution to the furlough scheme reducing to 60 per cent of wage costs, (Saturday 31 July), Unite called for the government to rethink its plans to end the scheme altogether in September.
Around 2m workers are still on the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme (furlough) down from the peak of 11m workers when the health crisis engulfed the UK economy last year.
Unite, which was central to negotiating the scheme, says that it has more than proved its value to the country, protecting jobs, keeping wages coming in to support families and preventing an unemployment crisis. Unite is now calling for it to be adapted into a short-time working scheme, such as the one which protects jobs and whole industries in Germany, from market vagaries.
Steve Turner, Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing, said, “When we negotiated furlough I said to the government that it would more than prove its value by protecting jobs, incomes and skills, especially for strategic sectors like manufacturing, something which has demonstrably been the case.
“It is far better to retain workers through temporary crises, dips in demand and technological transformation such as we are seeing now with the greening of our economy, than to lose them altogether, along with the skills and knowledge they possess, and allowing unemployment to rise.
“That’s why I am calling on the government not to scrap the scheme altogether but to adapt it. Reform it into a short-time working scheme, like they have in Germany and many of our competitor countries, to support critical sectors like manufacturing through peaks and troughs, serious supply chain problems and the transition to a greener future that’s now underway.
“We’re not out of the woods yet with this pandemic and the autumn could see another rash of cases and further disruptions.
“That’s why I am urging ministers not to waste the good work that’s been done, or to miss a fantastic legacy that can develop from furlough.
“To pull the rug from under the feet of business and workers now will dent the confidence needed for businesses to invest and adapt operations at this critical time as we try to recover and rebuild the economy.
“It is hard to comprehend the motivation for or sense in ending both the furlough scheme and snatching back £20 a week from hard working people on universal credit on the same day. It’s a double whammy and could make 30 September a very bleak day for workers, their families and communities.”
By Barckley Sumner