Socialist Worker

Moves to undermine furlough scheme flag up plans for new attacks on workers

Bosses have warned of a ‘tsunami of job losses’ after lockdown ends, reports Tomáš Tengely-Evans

Issue No. 2706

Chancellor Rishi Sunak (centre) pretends to be on the side of workers. But his plans mean no light at the end of the tunnel for millions

Chancellor Rishi Sunak (centre) pretends to be on the side of workers. But his plans mean no light at the end of the tunnel for millions (Pic: Number 10/Flickr)


Workers fear for their jobs after the Tories said bosses must pay towards the job retention scheme from August.

The Treasury wants bosses to pay at least 20 percent of furloughed workers’ wages, according to reports in The Times newspaper.

The scheme presently sees the state pay 80 percent of some workers’ wages if they would have been laid off because of the lockdown.

It pays up to £2,500 a month.

Tory chancellor Rishi Sunak extended the furlough scheme until October, but wants to wind it down to get people back to work.

Officials talk of “weening off” the more than seven million people who now rely on the scheme.

The scheme has already forced many workers into poverty, with some trying to get by on half of their normal income.

Jeremy, a call centre worker at a logistics company, has been paid around 55 percent of his wages for the second month running.

He told Socialist Worker, “I can’t get any explanation from the employer.

“It’s all so vague and they use Covid-19 as an excuse, which can cover a multitude of problems.

“One HR person said, ‘We’ll sort it out when we go back to work,’ but what happens right now?

“Another email from management said that they would be in touch ‘in due course’.”

Jeremy explained that 80 percent of his usual pay would be around £1,228, but he only got £815 in April and £829 in May. “The impact is quite severe,” he said.

“Because I’m disabled, I get a Pip benefit and a bit from a pension to top me up, but it’s not much.

Frugal

“You just have to be far more frugal in terms of what you buy in shops, you have to buy what’s cheap not what’s healthy.”

Jeremy added that it’s a “three and a half mile round trip” to top up his gas and electric.

And there is more pain in store for workers as bosses prepare to make them pay for the next recession.

One recruitment agency boss said there would be a “day of reckoning” when the scheme ends.

“What happens when furlough winds up,” asked James Reed. “Is there a wave of redundancies coming?

“The danger is a tsunami of job losses.

“Companies I talk to are a half or a quarter of the size they were when they furloughed people, or they are on the verge of going bankrupt.”

Another boss, quoted in the Financial Times newspaper, questioned the value of the scheme.

“If the furlough scheme is paying for jobs that don’t really exist, it’s better to release people into the job market to start looking for other work,” they said.

“Releasing” people from the scheme means snatching away their money and forcing them to look for jobs at a time when many firms are shut down.

Unions have to fight to make sure workers are not forced back to work by hardship—and that they don’t pay for the coronavirus crisis.


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