Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak - overseeing jobs horror at Halloween (Pic: Number 10/Flickr)
Millions of working class people face the nightmare of mass unemployment as the Tories prepare to scrap the furlough scheme on Halloween.
Two million workers still rely on the scheme, which is due to end on Saturday.
It has subsidised bosses’ wage bill for workers who would have otherwise been laid off because of the pandemic and lockdowns since March.
A Bank of England official has warned that unemployment could climb past the central bank’s predicted peak of 7.5 percent.
Other forecasters expect a rate of 9 or 10 percent unemployment—well over three million people.
The People Before Profit campaign group is organising a day of action to demand that furlough is extended for “at least 12 months”.
It also wants an emergency programme for jobs, services and safety (see below).
The group brings together Labour MPs, trade unionists and campaigners to fight for a socialist response to the coronavirus crisis.
A job support scheme is set to replace the furlough programme on 1 November.
It will mean lots more cash for businesses—while workers still lose out.
The government introduced the furlough scheme at the start of the coronavirus crisis in March.
It gave bosses the money to pay 80 percent of wages for millions of workers.
That level of support has been reduced ahead of the end of the scheme on Saturday.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak was forced to announce yet another amendment to the new job support scheme last week.
Under his original proposal, the state would only cover up to 22 percent of the wages of workers employed at least part time. Employers would be expected to pay 55 percent—and the worker to lose nearly a quarter of their pay.
But now Sunak has cut the business contribution for unworked hours to just 5 percent—a massive fall.
It means that if a part-time worker was paid £587 a month for their unworked hours, the government would contribute £543 and the employer just £44.
It’s a direct subsidy to firms that will still be able to pay mega-salaries to their directors and, for many, give handouts to shareholders.
But workers will still take a hit. The only paltry concession is that workers will be eligible for the scheme if they’re working at least 20 percent of their usual hours rather than 33 percent.
Sunak took steps to make sure there would be no serious opposition to his plan.
He held a “hybrid” briefing with business leaders and trade unions in a London restaurant early last Thursday.
Instead of joining Sunak’s coffee and croissants meeting while he hands cash to bosses, the unions should be joining the resistance.
Back day of action by People Before Profit to demand support for workers
The People Before Profit group plans a day of action on Halloween against the scrapping of the furlough scheme.
Supporters of Greater Manchester Coronavirus Action Group—People Before Profit campaigned for “Manchester’s missing millions” last Saturday.
Labour mayor Andy Burnham said Greater Manchester councils needed £30 million more than the Tories gave them.
Nurse Karen Reissmann called on people to join the day of action. “It’s Halloween and we’ve definitely got a nightmare in Britain,” she said.
“The government has put rich people and their profiteering above ordinary people.”
Laila, who was laid off by Debenhams in Manchester, slammed bosses’ attempts to make working class people pay for the coronavirus crisis.
“Some had worked for Debenhams for ten, 20, 30 years, but all of us were told we were just going to get three more days’ pay,” she said.
Meanwhile, supporters of People Before Profit in Glasgow gathered outside an Ikea furniture store to support victimised trade unionist Richie Venton.
Ikea bosses dismissed the Usdaw union rep last month after he warned workers of planned attacks on their rights.
People Before Profit supporters and trade unionists in Chesterfield organised a “Sack Serco” flashmob last Friday.
The firm has leached millions for the failed test and trace system.
The campaigning followed People Before Profit launch meetings attended by over 100 people online in both Manchester and Glasgow.