Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 50 Number 30, August 8, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Workers' Forum

Threat of Mass Unemployment with Ending of Furlough

No to Unemployment! Defend the rights of all!

It is becoming increasingly apparent that, when the furlough scheme ends in October, mass redundancies are in the offing. This is already happening in various sectors, particularly in the steel, automotive, aviation, and connected industries.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which allows firms to furlough employees with the government paying 80% of their wages up to a maximum of £2,500, was originally open for three months. Opposition, and the developing seriousness of the wave of the pandemic in Britain, led to the scheme's extension to October. Since June 30, apart from certain exceptions, the scheme has been closed to new people. Further, many employees have already been having to return to work over the past three months despite the still-present danger of the pandemic.

Now that the scheme is to end, a potentially huge number of workers are to find their status change from retention under the scheme to unemployment, facing a massive reduction in income as they are forced from furlough and into Jobseeker's Allowance. It is reported that some 9 million people are currently on furlough.

Large employers undertaking a statutory consultancy period with their staff on redundancy arrangements will soon begin - in fact, already are - issuing redundancy notices to what could therefore be millions of people. Some are saying that what have effectively been artificial numbers of employees on companies' books are to become officially unemployed when the furlough scheme ends. This wholesale change of status potentially represents a step deterioration in the condition of the workers as a whole.

The threat of an impending wave of mass unemployment is throwing into stark relief the issue of who controls the direction of the economy, which includes the decisions made in large companies over redundancy. Workers should have a decisive say as to when furlough ends. The perspective must be that it is their economy and they should be the decision-makers.

Workers, organised in trade unions and workplace organisations, and faced with this crisis, must turn the situation around. All who are not working should maintain their status and dignity as unemployed workers, and they too should become organised.

The mass of unemployed will inevitably face shortages in necessities for life, lacking adequate income for food, clothing and shelter. To be reduced to reliance on foodbanks and charity, affecting their health and dignity, is a violation of their most basic human rights. To maintain their dignity and survival, they must not be faced with police powers to restrict their abilities to organise. They must be united against divisive tactics to limit their resistance and activity. They cannot be restricted by the conditions. United action is required to put the government on notice that plans should be made for providing positive employment and adequate standards of living.

Workers are already showing their capabilities on all fronts. The urgent necessity is to continue to speak out and strengthen their organisations to oppose unemployment and fight for the rights of all.


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