Responding to the announcement today (Friday 9 October) by chancellor Rishi Sunak of jobs support directed to northern communities forced into further coronavirus restrictions, the leader of Unite the union, Len McCluskey, said:
“It is abundantly clear that a second wave of this virus is sweeping across the country. This was predicted, which is why the chancellor’s closure of the job retention scheme was always going to be premature and regrettable.
“Every lever must be pulled by government to save jobs and avert jobs carnage this winter. Today’s announcement helps and is much needed, but we fear it may again be too little and too late to save many jobs.
“Countries like France and Germany took the decision months back to extend their job retention schemes for two years, putting a stable floor under businesses and workers during these uncertain times. We cannot understand why the UK government has not done the same, but has instead chosen to gift a competitive advantage to those countries offering more support.
“Wages support for the north as the region battles this disease is certainly welcome, however we have to question why it is set at only two thirds of wages and not the 80 per cent provided in March. Bills haven’t fallen, so why has the level of wage support? Workers need to know that the mortgage and rent can be covered, and that food can be put on the table, but employers also need to feel that they are getting the support they need to keep people in employment.
“The country is at a fresh crossroads with this virus and we back all efforts to suppress it, but we urge the chancellor to recognise that this is the moment to revisit his winter economic plan. More support is needed to save jobs and protect incomes and he must use the wealth of our nation to provide it.
“I repeat the call from across the labour movement for the chancellor and the government to work with unions and employers now on a plan to create and save jobs in the immediate and longer term. This is a national emergency and as such requires the government to unite the talents of the country to protect the public’s health and our economy.”