‘CAN I put on record my thanks to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the CBI, and other business groups,’ Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak said yesterday while outlining a deal made with the unions and the Tories over wages to be paid to workers, forced out of their jobs during the coronavirus crisis.
However, Sunak said that the government will not pay the workforce directly, but give the subsidy to the bosses, to dish out as they see fit.
Sunak at the daily coronavirus press conference said: ‘The economic intervention that I am announcing today is unprecedented in modern times. I know that people are worried about losing their jobs, about not being able to pay their rent and finances. I know that some of you in the last few days have already lost their jobs.
‘For the first time in history, the government will pay the wages of the workforce.
‘Through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, any employer in the country, small or large, charitable or other will be eligible for this scheme.
‘The government will cover the cost of 80% of a worker’s income up to £2,500 a month.
‘This means that workers can retain their job even if their employer cannot afford to pay them their wage for at least the next three months.
‘I am placing no limit on the amount of funding available for the scheme.
‘We expect the first grants to be paid in weeks.
‘I know that many businesses are hurting now. I am also announcing tax deferral.
‘I am deferring the next quarter of VAT payments. That means that no business will pay VAT from now until the end of June and you will not have to repay this money until the end of the year. That is a direct injection of 30 billion pounds.
‘We are lending unlimited amounts of money interest-free to businesses for the next twelve months.
‘Please look very carefully at that support before laying any workers off.
‘I cannot promise you that no one will suffer hardship.
‘That is why I am increasing today the Universal Credit standard allowance by £1,000 for the next year.
‘I am suspending the minimum income floor. That means that self-employed people can access Universal Credit at the same rate as statutory sick pay for employees.
‘I am also announcing today nearly £1 billion support for renters, so that Housing Allowance will cover the shortfall in rent you need to pay in your area.
‘Unprecedented measures for unprecedented times.’
At the press conference, Tory PM Johnson stressed: ‘We are strengthening the plans announced on Monday. Following agreement between the leaders of Scotland, England and Northern Ireland, we are collectively telling cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants to close as of tomorrow.
‘We are telling cinemas and leisure centres to close on the same timetable.
‘Physically, we need to keep people apart. People may be tempted to go out tonight. I say to those people, please don’t. We want you to stay at home. That is how we can protect the NHS and save lives.
‘I know how difficult this is and how it goes against he freedom-loving instincts of the British people. We will get through this, and we will get through this together.
‘Both a medical and an economic recovery in full.’
On Thursday afternoon, the Chancellor spoke to representatives of business groups and unions, including the Federation of Small Businesses and the Trades Union Congress, where it was agreed more needed to be done to protect workers’ jobs.
‘As well as providing emergency support to business, it is essential that money goes into workers’ pockets now. We must do whatever it takes to stop businesses going to the wall and workers being plunged into poverty,’ said Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, after the meeting.
The negotiations with the chancellor went on into the night.