ADDRESSING the Labour shadow secretary Anneliese Dodds, the Tory Chancellor Sunak said yesterday in the House of Commons: ‘I do stand ready to work with the honourable member opposite, if she knew exactly what she wanted.’
He added: ‘Today the government stands with the British people and British business with the CBI, with the British Chambers of Commerce with the Trades Union Congress in bringing much needed support to the economy.’
He was outlining the new ‘Jobs Support Scheme,’ which cuts Britain down to a three-day week, something that has not been seen since the 1970s.
Earlier in the day the Tory Chancellor in an extraordinary photo opportunity in Downing Street, was pictured with both the leader of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the leader of the bosses organisation, the CBI.
He was flanked on the left by TUC leader Frances O’Grady and flanked on the right by leader of the CBI, Carolyn Fairbairn.
Nearly three million workers – or 12% of the UK’s workforce are currently on partial or full furlough leave, according to official figures. The Job Retention Scheme ends on 31st October.
In Parliament Sunak outlining the new scheme said: ‘Many businesses are operating safely and viably but they now face uncertainty and reduced demand over the winter months.
‘What those businesses need is support to bring people back to work and protect as many viable jobs as we can.
‘To do that, I am announcing today the new Jobs Support Scheme. The government will directly support the wages of people in work, getting businesses to face depressed demand, the option of keeping employees in a job on shorter hours rather than making them redundant.
‘It will support viable jobs, to make sure that employees must work at least a third of the normal hours, and be paid for that as normal by their employer.
‘The government together with the employers will then increase those people’s wages, covering two thirds of the pay that they have lost by reducing their working hours and the employee will keep their job.
‘This scheme absolutely does incentivise shorter time working. The company will pay the workers the time that they are in work and the government and the employer jointly will supplement the time that the worker is not working.’
He said that the Jobs Support Scheme, which will replace the furlough scheme when it ends, will see workers get up to 77% of their normal salaries for six months, capped at £697.92 per month, while firms cover a further third.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘The Chancellor’s measures are akin to using a plaster to cover a gaping wound.
‘Our members in the commercial sector, aviation and culture are already being threatened with hundreds of redundancies, as employers seek to capitalise on the economic fallout from Covid-19.
‘No one should be losing their job due to the coronavirus pandemic and that is why the furlough scheme should be extended.’
John Phillips, GMB Acting General Secretary, said: ‘It’s incredibly disappointing not to see much bolder, forward thinking action.
‘We’ve had a decade of underinvestment in our economy – for it to bounce back as quickly as possible, we need investment in infrastructure, training and skills in sustainable jobs and industries – not just to protect the jobs we have but to create new jobs and a new economy as we come out of this crisis.’
Leader of Unite the union, Len McCluskey, said: ‘The package of measures announced today by the Chancellor will allow many workers and employers to breathe more easily.
‘For some industries this will steady the very rocky floor beneath them, something that we have been pressing for all summer in an effort to stop the redundancy floodgates from pouring open.
‘The Chancellor has heard the incessant calls from unions, economists and business leaders and listened, and that is to be undoubtedly welcomed.’
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘Unions have been pushing hard for continued jobs support for working people. We are pleased the Chancellor has listened and done the right thing.
‘This scheme will provide a lifeline for many firms with a viable future beyond the pandemic.’