Winter on the dole?

A jobs carnage has been predicted – the time to avert it is now, writes Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey

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Conservative chancellors have got form when it comes to a casual disregard for the jobs of ordinary people.

Thirty years ago, Norman Lamont was telling us high unemployment was a ‘price worth paying’ for his head-banger economics.

Now we have Rishi Sunak.  A better communicator yes, but who in a few short months has gone from ‘whatever it takes’ to throwing in the towel on whole sectors of the economy like aviation, tourism and hospitality.

The government is not even bothering to try anymore – instead it is adopting the brace position for the four million we’re warned will be on the dole this winter.

Despite the fanfare, the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) is in no way the proper follow-on from the Jobs Retention Scheme.  It lumps struggling employers with costs too heavy to bear at a time when demand has not yet returned and on-off lockdowns play havoc with consumer confidence.

Yes, some employers will find the JSS very helpful, in high-skilled industries where the cost of firing workers only to have to retrain at a later date make no sense.  We’re working with those employers right now to save every job we can.

‘Little incentive’

But the great majority of businesses will find little incentive to use a scheme that can make it more costly to keep people on the books.

Yet again, the UK has looked at what similar countries are doing and decided that we can do worse.

Gordon Brown and his Alliance for Full Employment (AfFE) are spot on when they say that the country stands on the edge of the worst recession in three hundred years but the Tory government is doing far too little, much too late to halt the oncoming mass unemployment tsunami.

In these unstable times, France and Germany provide jobs support for longer and at a higher level.  They will attract the investment that saves jobs, not us.

While French and German workers can rest easier in their beds at night, UK workers are being left to fret for their futures by a government in thrall to the doctrine of ‘creative destruction’.

With only weeks until the JRS ends and diminishing faith in the JSS’ capacity to save jobs on the scale so needed, it will be down to us – workers, unions and the Labour party – to metaphorically knock ministers’ heads together.

We will not allow a government that does more to protect the future of grouse shooting than of bar workers, that causes redundancy notices to fly around like confetti, to fail our people.

Working people and their unions are crying out for a proper plan to save and create jobs. The chancellor must hear our voices – and act.

A jobs carnage has been predicted.  The time to avert it is now.


This comment first appeared in the Daily Mirror.

By Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary

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