Socialist Worker

Misery for workers as hundreds of thousands to lose jobs 

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2722

 Chancellor Rishi Sunak says that the tough times are here

Chancellor Rishi Sunak says that the "tough times are here" (Pic: HM treasury)


Unemployment will be the worst “in at least a generation” by the autumn as Tories and bosses try to make workers pay for the coronavirus crisis. 

Over 700,000 workers could be thrown into unemployment this autumn, according to a new report by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES). 

The job cuts are on top of the 240,000 people who had lost their jobs by June. This means that the total number of people thrown out of work could top one million in the coming months. 

The IES said the redundancies “will almost certainly exceed ­anything experienced in at least a generation” and “be comfortably the highest level since this data series began in 1995”. 

Millions more fear for their jobs as the Tories wind down the coronavirus job retention scheme.

Furlough

The furlough scheme saw the state subsidise bosses for wages by 80 percent but Chancellor Rishi Sunak decreased support to 70 percent on 1 September.

And he plans to cut it further to 60 percent from 1 October—before scrapping the whole scheme completely on 31 October.

Almost 700,000 people could become destitute in the last three months of the year if the Tories withdraw coronavirus support to low-paid households. 

The Trussell Trust said that families would be unable to meet basic needs when the furlough and the temporary £20 a week increase to the Universal Credit end. 

And it warned that stopping the furlough scheme could make food bank use surge by 61 percent. 

Chief executive Emma Revie said, “Our research finds that Covid-19 has led to tens of thousands of new people needing to use a food bank for the first time. 

“If we don’t take action now, there will be further catastrophic rises in poverty in the future.” 

The TUC union federation launched the No Going Back to Normal campaign at its virtual congress this week. Unison union leader Dave Prentis called on the Tories to “reverse a decade of neglect”.

“Everyone is desperate to get back to normal,” he said. “However, ‘normal’ cannot mean a return to low pay, penny-pinching and public services staff being undervalued.

“The government must invest properly in public services and respect workers by paying them fairly and keeping them safe.” 

Unions leaders must be forced to turn words into action as a matter of urgency. 

The People Before Profit ­network is launching an “emergency programme for jobs, services and safety” at an online meeting on 29 September. 

Speakers include Labour MP John McDonnell PCS union general secretary Mark Serwotka, CWU union president Jane Loftus, Bfawu union president Ian Hodson and health worker Karen Reissmann.

Activists have to win support for programme throughout unions and the movements—and organise action. 

Only a fight in the workplaces and streets will stop the Tories and bosses making workers pay for the coronavirus crash.

Go to bit.ly/PBPLaunch for details of the launch

Walkouts in workplaces prove that we can challenge the bosses 

Walkouts in Glasgow and Bristol show that it’s possible to take on bosses who put workers’ health in danger. 

Bin workers in Glasgow have successfully won concessions over health and safety after a walkout last week. 

Around 100 workers gathered outside the city chambers on George Square on Tuesday of last week. Workers have been on reduced hours—on full pay—to protect their health and safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

The workers’ action was triggered by management’s attempt to bring about a return to normal working on Monday. 

Council bosses and union officials struck a deal that saw a return to work last Wednesday.  

Chris Mitchell, a GMB union convenor, said, “For some reason the council are trying to extend the work hours for certain bits of the service when we’re in a semi-lockdown within Glasgow.

“Measures are in place that have been working. Why do they want to risk that and put our members at risk?

“What’s the point in increasing the hours now if we have to go back to the old reduced hours in a few weeks?”

The number of coronavirus cases in Scotland reached a four month high less than one week after the walkout.

A total of 221 people tested positive for the virus in the 24 hours to Sunday, the highest daily figure since 8 May.

Meanwhile, workers at a Bristol branch of The Range shop are reported to have walked out over coronavirus safety fears. 

One worker said, “Basically we are being asked to choose between our health or the job.

“They are putting money before staff and they should be held accountable.” 

The Bristol Live website said one staff member at the Stoke Gifford store has contracted Covid-19.

Another worker said, “They are refusing to close the store for a deep clean even though the infected member of staff was in store for a week.

“We feel like we have no power or say and that the business is putting their profits first.”

The worker alleged that staff had not been allowed time off, even as a holiday, to go to get tested. 

They also added, “We have been told that if we leave work or do not turn up because of the Covid-19 scare then we will be in disciplinaries.”


Employers are still failing to implement virus precautions 

Less than half of workers say bosses have introduced social distancing in the workplace, according to a survey by the TUC union federation. 

Only 38 percent knew their boss had carried out a Covid-secure risk assessment—even though it’s a legal requirement to carry one out and show staff.

And just 42 percent reported being given adequate personal protective equipment. 

The findings come a week after health secretary Matt Hancock claimed the “vast majority” of workplaces were Covid secure in a bid to push people back to work. 

Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, said, “If we don’t deal with the public health crisis, we won’t be able to deal with the economic one.

“Rather than trying to bully people back into offices, ministers should change the law to require all employers to publish their risk assessments and make sure workplaces are safe.

“And they should crack down on bad bosses who risk their workers’ lives. 

“As we saw with Leicester, it only takes one bad boss playing fast and loose with workers’ safety to shut down an entire city.”


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