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Workers pushed to poverty by furlough failures

This article is over 4 years, 2 months old
Empty Tory promises and greedy bosses are leaving many workers struggling to survive, reports Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue 2705
Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s scheme doesn’t go far enough (Pic: PA)

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme should see workers who would have been laid off paid 80 percent of their wages by the state. 

But Samantha, a McDonald’s worker, is only on around 55 percent of her usual pay and is trying to apply for Universal Credit (UC). 

“Originally we were told that we’d get 80 percent of our pay during the previous 12 weeks before coronavirus,” she told Socialist Worker. 

“But when the government published the guidance, we had an email to say that it would be calculated using the average for the tax year 2019/20.”

This has forced Samantha to live off around 18 hours a week pay despite working 35 hours from last summer. 

“I’m the sole breadwinner,” she said. “My partner has now gone to university and I’ve got three children.

“We lived quite frugally anyway so we’ve had to reduce even more now.

“We live in an area that has quite high rent. I’ve not paid my council tax and I’m not going to until I’m back in work because I can’t.”

She added, “We get paid fortnightly, so it makes applying for UC more complicated.” 


Samantha has had to dip into money she’d saved for a deposit to buy a house. 

“If we didn’t have that, what would my meal table look like?” she asked.

“One day my daughter was like, ‘Have you got anything nice to drink?’ and I had to say no.

“I try not to think about how much I’ve lost, because it just adds to the anxiety and the worry.”

Around 40 percent of workers at McDonald’s franchises—the majority of its restaurants—are on zero hours contracts. 

Samantha said, “McDonald’s say its solved the problem of zero hours, but it’s an illusion.

“You can apply for a contract, which varies from eight, 16 or 30 hours a week, if you meet certain criteria. 

“You’d have to work a certain amount of hours in a period. 

“But it only has around 150 contracts that it can give out, people can be refused the contracts, and some managements can reduce people’s hours.” 

Tory changes to the furlough scheme last week have caused added worry. 

While chancellor Rishi Sunak extended it until October, bosses will be expected to stump up more cash towards it. 

Samantha said, “There’s no guarantee that employers will put their hand in their pocket. 

“You’re at the mercy of your government and I don’t trust our government to be fair to its workers.

“It’s not just at McDonald’s—low paid workers are not treated with respect.”

Workers should have full pay—and those on low pay and zero hours contracts should receive an immediate boost in income.

Samantha is a pseudonym

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