Unite has denounced the government’s insistence that the country must `live with Covid’, while refusing to provide the furlough and sick pay support needed to protect workers’ jobs and health.
Steve Turner, Unite’s assistant general for manufacturing, who was central to securing the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme – the furlough programme – said he was ‘absolutely staggered’ by the government’s moves while the R-rate in England runs at 1.3 and case rates are back at January levels.
Turner was speaking ahead of the much-trailed announcement by the prime minister that many of the present requirements in England to protect public health will be scrapped.
“It is absolutely staggering that the government has pronounced that we must now ‘live with Covid’, yet they have put zero support in place to support struggling businesses and workers through this next phase,” Turner said.
“Draining down furlough support at this volatile time just makes no economic sense,” he added. “Instead, the government should be rebooting the scheme, looking at how it can support the economy to ‘live with Covid’, which we’re told will be with us for years.
“The government is putting its Tory backbenches before jobs, binning simple public health measures, yet failing to provide support for fragile sectors like aerospace, travel and hospitality,” Turner continued. “It’s utterly irresponsible.
“The virus is still running around our communities at an alarming rate and the medical profession is braced for rising short and long-term sickness,” he went on to say.
“The employers that I talk to daily are fearful that if the guard is dropped in our communities, it will be their workplaces that will be hit, but they have been given no support to send workers home to recover,” Turner noted. “Even those who can claim sick pay will only have £14 a day to keep a family – and two million workers won’t have any financial help at all.
“Working people have lost their lives or had their health destroyed by this crippling virus. Our communities’ health is not some bone to be chucked to the Tory backbenches.
“The government wants to turn this into a debate on freedom when the truth is that this is nothing other than a shameless effort to move on from their mishandling of the crisis.”
By Shaun Noble