Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 50 Number 37, October 3, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Workers' Forum

Unions Respond to Chancellor's Winter Economy Plan

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said, amongst other things: "Unworked hours under the scheme must not be wasted. Ministers must work with business and unions to offer high-quality retraining, so workers are prepared for the future economy. [...] The government should target help at industries facing a tough winter, and provide more support for families most at risk of hardship and debt."

On the further action now needed, she said: "We must use this period of protection to make the economy more resilient and to plan a strong recovery. Ministers must quickly get Test and Trace working properly, so it's fast and reliable through the UK. And enforcement bodies must get more resources to make sure all workplaces safe.

"A National Recovery Council should now be convened, bringing together government, business and unions. We can use the winter months to plan an economic spring, with fair rewards for key workers and good new jobs in green industry. Let's get moving on a national plan to build that together."

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "Any support for jobs and key industries during this unprecedented global pandemic is to be welcomed. However, the Chancellor's measures are akin to using a plaster to cover a gaping wound.

"Our members in the commercial sector, aviation and culture are already being threatened with hundreds of redundancies, as employers seek to capitalise on the economic fallout from Covid-19.

"No one should be losing their job due to the coronavirus pandemic and that is why the furlough scheme should be extended."

Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said: "We are pleased that the Chancellor has eventually stepped back from the cliff-edge ending of the jobs retention scheme and we will study the details of the new jobs support scheme. However we are very disappointed that he made no mention of the deep difficulties the retail industry faces.

"The coronavirus pandemic has had a profound impact on retail. So far this year 125,000 jobs have been lost in retail and 14,000 shops have permanently closed. The Chancellor today needed to demonstrate the government will work with unions and employers on an immediate recovery plan that will give targeted support to retail."

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: "We have called for bold action from government and remain concerned that six months is too short to really stabilise businesses and jobs which so badly need support and would like clarity over who decides which businesses are viable."

Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said: "Despite the damage suffered by the creative industries during the pandemic, it is clear that the Treasury has once again overlooked their needs. The Job Support Scheme may help some employers, but it will not help to save theatres that are still not able to open due to government restrictions and are already making thousands of workers redundant. And the army of freelancers and self-employed who make up the backbone of the UK creative industries face being excluded from support once again as the Chancellor continue to turn a deaf ear to their hardship. Without more support the UK creative sector will not get through the winter, we desperately need a targeted plan to save jobs and ensure that one of the most productive parts of our economy can survive the winter."

GMB action general secretary John Phillips said: "GMB is calling on all employers who have redundancies planned to halt those processes and reassess based on this announcement. If bosses won't do that, the Government must step in. It's incredibly disappointing not to see much bolder, forward thinking action.

"We've had a decade of underinvestment in our economy  - for it to bounce back as quickly as possible, we need investment in infrastructure, training and skills in sustainable jobs and industries - not just to protect the jobs we have but to create new jobs and a new economy as we come out of this crisis."

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "Today [...] cannot be the last word from the government on the defence of people's livelihoods. We have seen a summer of jobs destruction but an absence of jobs creation. We urge the government to work with us as we put our collective shoulders to the wheel in the task of recovering the economy, because the spectre of mass unemployment still stalks our communities. "

Len McCluskey called on employers considering making workers redundant to now step back from the brink:

"While we await the detail of criteria for large employers' access to the scheme, there can be no doubt that in the UK's strategically vital industries - such as aerospace, steel and automotive - today's move to support wages means we stand a better chance of saving the jobs and skills needed to power the recovery.

"We call upon employers to now work with us on the urgent task of saving those jobs. Reverse plans for redundancies and reflect on the opportunities now available to us: do not push the redundancy button. Unite's officials stand ready to work night and day with you to keep people in work and earning."

Further, Len McCluskey warned that more still needs to be done to address the skills crisis and to create desperately needed new and decent jobs, particularly for young people who have been hit hard by this crisis:

"Industries teetering on the cliff edge like aviation, retail and hospitality, where jobs are being lost hand over fist and where the impact of this crisis continues to be devastating, will need further support.

"Dismissing jobs in these sectors as not viable is to leave communities to rot and descend into a jobs wastelands, so we are determined to continue to fight for better and wider support for these workers.

"We urge the chancellor to keep the unemployment situation under constant review and pledge to act swiftly should the measures announced today not have the desired effect of holding back a tide of job losses and poverty."

Equity general secretary-elect Paul Fleming said: "Today's announcement is as underwhelming as it is terrifying. Only 40% of our members have received any money to date from the SEISS - and how can 20% of profit be anywhere near enough for people to survive on? Its extension is meaningless to so many Equity members. Even the most pragmatic and decent steps, like extending the suspension of the Minimum Income Floor from Universal Credit, have been overlooked.

"Driving our hard working, tax paying members out of their professions like this is not only unjust but economically illiterate - without them, we risk the collapse of the £112 billion the creative industries contribute to the UK economy."

(Union News, September 24)


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