Ahead of the comprehensive spending review (CSR) on Wednesday (November 25), Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has written to chancellor Rishi Sunak calling on him to use the power of his office to fend off mass unemployment and make 2021 a better year for working people.
Below is his letter in full.
Unite members are extremely anxious for their health and the future of their jobs and families, and how they will financially manage in the weeks, months and year ahead. In these uncertain times, our members, along with working people across the country, need their government to act to bring security and certainty to their jobs and income.
High unemployment and widespread poverty from this pandemic is not inevitable – your actions can avert this outcome, and your statement on Wednesday can show that the government understands the responsibility you possess to better people’s lives.
Unite is present in workplaces the length and breadth of the UK. Alongside our significant efforts to protect public health, we have worked throughout this pandemic with tens of thousands of employers on creative solutions to protect jobs and incomes. We know that good employers share our ambition that 2021 becomes a year of strategic activity to recover our economy, and that a comprehensive government programme to protect people’s jobs and incomes will be welcomed across all sectors, industries and within our communities.
We will be watching your statement closely for signs that this government has the ambition and appetite to truly build our country back to a fair recovery. We are hoping to hear that the following steps will be part of your strategy:
- Comprehensive packages of sector support. We have many fantastic sectors in our country that will be the engine of growth in the future, but need support in the immediate short and medium term; sectors such as aviation and public transport, manufacturing industries such as automotive and aerospace, foundation industries such as steel and sectors hit by the specific nature of the pandemic such as retail and hospitality. Unite has been demanding that the Government work with the TUC and trade unions for months to develop sector specific support. An aviation package that was promised back in March is yet to materialise. The CSR must be used as an opportunity to announce this much needed support.
- Job creation by bringing forward investment and guaranteeing the money will go to supporting and creating decent, secure jobs around our country. The government should not only bring forward large scale investment to upgrade our infrastructure, including communications, housing, public transport and energy, to make our economy green and sustainable but also guarantee this money goes to maintaining and creating jobs around the UK.
- Urgent extra resources for our public services to equip them for winter and the future. Our NHS, local government and social care and education members are all clear that our public services desperately need extra resources and are under great strain after a decade of cuts.
- An increase Statutory Sick Pay to £320 a week – a living wage – and available to all workers. As Dido Harding has repeatedly pointed out, workers will not self-isolate if they cannot afford to. Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) in the UK is by far the lowest of our competitor nations and is simply not enough to live on. It is vital, therefore, that SSP increases from the current £96 a week to a level where people can afford to self-isolate, that employers are able to resource this – and that all workers are entitled to it.
- A fix to furlough so that no one is paid less than minimum wage, it is unacceptable that there are hundreds of thousands of the lowest paid receiving only 80% of the minimum wage.
- No cut to Universal Credit in April – cutting Universal Credit back by £20 a week amounts to taking away £1000 a year from millions of low income households, and according to the Resolution Foundation would be a cut in the average annual income of the bottom half of the population by £600 a year. Families simply cannot absorb this cut to their incomes.
- Increase public service wages and raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour. Finally, we ask that you make clear tomorrow that the tired orthodoxy of wage austerity for our public services has no place in your plan for our people. Not only will a pay freeze – a pay cut in real terms – be a grave insult to the millions of public service workers who cared for our loved ones during this crisis, it will devastate morale at a time when the nation needs their skills. It also makes no sense economically to take the pounds and pennies spent by millions of workers in their local communities away from our struggling high streets. Raising the wages of public service workers and raising the minimum wage to £10 per hour would greatly assist in the fight against in-work poverty, which is sadly all too prevalent in this country.
Chancellor, nobody doubts the enormous decisions that are before you during these extraordinary times. This union stands ready to assist in the development and implementation of a strategic recovery programme. We urge that you recognise that in this time like no other we need action like no other and ask that you act to ensure that people can end 2020 and begin 2021 with greater security than they currently possess.
Unite General Secretary