‘THE FURLOUGH scheme can not continue indefinitely,’ Tory Chancellor Sunak said yesterday at the Downing Street daily briefing, announcing that by September, the employer will pay 10% towards it, going up to 20% in November and that the scheme will shut altogether in December.
He also announced that far from the coronavirus crisis being over there were another 295 fresh cases, and 324 fatalities yesterday bringing the total deaths in the UK to 38,161.
Despite these horrific figures Sunak announced that he was intent on pushing people back to work.
He said: ‘Over the coming weeks we can take careful but deliberate steps to reopen the economy. As we open the economy, business will have to change the way that they work.
‘The furlough scheme will continue as it is until October. Then in October we will ask employers to start to contribute.
‘In October the taxpayer will pay 70% of the furlough grant with employers contributing 10%. Then in November the taxpayer will pay 60% and the employer 20%.
‘And in December the scheme will close.’
He announced that employers will be asked to cover National Insurance and pension contributions for furloughed workers from August.
He announced what he called a ‘Flexible Furlough Scheme’ to begin from July 1. This, he said meant: ‘Your employer could ask you to come into work two or three days a week.’
Last week, British Airways announced one of these ‘new ways of working’. They are to sack 42,000 staff and then ‘reemploy’ 30,000 on worse pay and conditions.
Yesterday, a cross-party group of 113 MPs signed a letter sent by Labour’s Siobhain McDonagh to Sunak calling for the chancellor to extend a similar scheme for the self-employed.
Sunak said: ‘The self-employment income scheme will be extended, with applications opening in August for a second and final grant.’
Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, has announced his agreement with Sunak. He said, speaking up for the bosses: ‘The Chancellor has listened to trade unions like Unite who have been calling for flexible and incremental changes to the jobs retention scheme (JRS) to allow businesses to get back on their feet, protecting jobs in the process.
‘However, there is no doubt that the requirement for employers to meet pension and national insurance contributions from August, as employees have been doing all along, with further incremental changes to employer funding of the JRS from September, will reveal exactly how fragile much of the economy is.
‘There is also the fact that many businesses are simply not ready to bring people back to work because demand for their goods and services has evaporated.
‘Stimulating confidence and demand in the economy alongside JRS flexibility is essential. Therefore, bringing forward to 1 July, as Unite has argued, the ability to bring workers back on short-time working, is to be welcomed.’
Dave Wiltshire, secretary of the All Trades Unions Alliance, commented: ‘McCluskey is speaking like a bosses’ man with his support for flexible working that will see bosses dictate wages and hours and carry out mass sackings as BA and other companies are already doing.
‘The trade unions must reject Sunak’s plan and bring forward new leaders that will call a general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers government and socialism!’