UK payrolls dwindle by 640,000 under lockdown

Pressure builds on Chancellor to act as job loss crisis grows

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Pressure is growing on chancellor Rishi Sunak to take further action to avert a growing jobs crisis after new figures published today (July 16) show the number of people on UK payrolls plummeted by nearly 650,000 between March and June.

Meanwhile, the number of people on job-related benefits such as Universal Credit has skyrocketed to a total of 2.6m.

Experts predict that the full scale of the jobs crisis won’t be clear until the end of October, when the government’s furlough scheme is slated to end. In his summer statement last week, Sunak confirmed that the government would not extend the scheme, leaving the nearly 10m people now furloughed with an uncertain future.

A new survey of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) found that nearly one in three businesses plan to make job cuts in the next three months – further evidence that the job loss tsunami now looming over the UK has only just begun.

Britons were left sorely disappointed by Sunak’s summer statement last week, where he outlined a £30bn Covid-19 response package that, it now turns out, has merely recycled £10bn of spending from other projects already announced.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) highlighted today (July 16) that up to a third of the £30bn ‘Plan for Jobs’ package, which included job and apprenticeship creation schemes among other measures, is money that was already earmarked for government spending.

The IFS was extremely critical of the government’s lack of transparency over the financial support package, with IFS associate director David Phillips noting, “It makes scrutiny of plans more difficult and is corrosive to trust. While governments of all stripes will, of course, want to follow the adage of ‘repetition, repetition, repetition’ when it comes to highlighting the goodies they are funding, official policy documents should also be clear about when and where spending is expected to be lower than previously planned too.”

Revelations that the chancellor’s Plan for Jobs package is part-funded by underspending on previous projects comes as a Unite-commissioned survey published yesterday (July 15) found significant negative public attitudes to Sunak’s summer statement.  

The public has been especially critical of Sunak’s Jobs Retention Bonus, which is meant to replace the furlough scheme and grant £1000 to employers per employee that they commit to keeping after furlough for at least three months.

Nearly half of those surveyed – 48 per cent – said the Jobs Retention Bonus statement doesn’t target the right industries, while 43 per cent believe it does not go far enough to protect jobs amid the pandemic.

Another 50 per cent believe the £10 meal deal scheme also announced in the summer statement is waste of taxpayers’ money; and 60 per cent believe the government is wrong to remove free parking for NHS hospital staff as lockdown ends.

Responding to the survey, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the poll “confirms what we have been saying all along to ministers: the economy will not recover unless workers feel confident that they will keep their jobs”.

“Up and down the country, redundancy notices are raining down on workers. People are really fearful that decent jobs and industries will collapse as the jobs retention scheme comes to an end over the summer,” he noted

“What is urgently needed is intelligent, directed support for strategically vital sectors because these are the industries that will power us out of this recession, and give the public the confidence to spend again.

“Workers in the sectors under siege – hospitality, aviation, aerospace, automotive – desperately want measures which show that the government has grasped the scale of the radical action needed to stop this recession running into a depression,”McCluskey went on to say.

“People are hungry for jobs and income security – they need more substance than the meal deal.”

McCluskey called on the government to “bring forward the support needed to head off the summer job loss tsunami that voters dread” before the Commons stops for summer recess.

Unite continues to demand an extension and adaption of the furlough scheme, with special support for industries where job losses are at higher risk, and to extend tailored financial support packages to major industries such as aerospace, aviation and hospitality among other hard-hit sectors.

By Hajera Blagg

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