THE FURLOUGH scheme, where currently 6.2 million workers who are not working during the coronavirus crisis are getting 80% of their wages paid by the state, is to be extended until the end of October, Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in Parliament yesterday.
Sunak, in announcing the measures, gave a special thank you to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), in which he said: ‘In terms of the next step I am pleased to say that I have already been talking to the Trades Union Congress and the CBI about the future of helping those to get back into work, who unfortunately may lose their jobs through this period.’
He said: ‘I can announce today that the Job Retention Scheme will be extended four months until the end of October. By that point we will have provided eight months of support to British people and businesses. Until the end of July there will be no changes whatsoever. Then from August to October the scheme will continue for all sectors and regions within the UK but with greater flexibility to support the transition back to work.
‘Employers currently using the scheme will be able to bring furloughed employees back part-time, and we will ask employers to start sharing with the government the cost of paying people’s salaries.
‘Full details will follow by the end of May.
‘But I want to assure people today of one thing that won’t change.
‘Workers will, through the combined efforts of government and employers, continue to receive the same level of overall support as they do now at 80% of their current salary up to £2,500 a month.’
The Labourites gushed in support of the Tory Chancellor with Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, thanking him profusely for granting her urgent question. She opened by saying: ‘I would like to wish the Chancellor many happy returns. As a constructive opposition we want to work with the government to ensure people’s jobs and incomes are protected, and a critical element of it is the furlough scheme.’
Sunak responded: ‘Can I thank the Shadow Chancellor for her warm wishes and her constructive support of the announcement today.’
The Unite leadership was equally crawling to the Tory Chancellor.
Unite leader Len McCluskey said: ‘The Chancellor’s announcement will be a welcome relief to households across the country. The Job Retention Scheme is as crucial to battling and defeating this virus as the public health measures that we have also been campaigning for.
‘Of course, we’ll need to look at the detail when published, but today’s announcement is a message again to employers that the government will stand behind them if they stand behind their workers. There should be no rush to redundancies.’
John Phillips, Acting GMB General Secretary, said: ‘It is welcome that the furlough scheme has been extended but the devil will be in the detail.
‘Important issues are still to be addressed, including the need for all workers to be paid at least their full minimum wage rates for their normal hours of work.
‘Continued support for the Job Retention Scheme is crucial, but muddled advice on who should be working means many well-intentioned employers, who want to keep their staff furloughed, will find themselves competing with unscrupulous companies who want to drag their staff back before it is safe to do so.
‘We need clarity, transparency and a proper plan. This announcement doesn’t remove the issue of workers forced back to work this week on crowded public transport, or the absence of PPE or enforceable social distancing measures when they get to work.
‘We call on ministers to engage with the unions over the coming weeks to develop the details of the Job Retention Scheme extension.’