This year has been extremely difficult because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The difficulty has been exacerbated by the Government’s mishandling of the crisis, which looks set to worsen with the withdrawal of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme at the end of October.
The Job Retention Scheme, fought for by trade unions and employers as the means to avoid an immediate collapse across sectors and mass job losses, has provided welcome support for the 9.6million people who have used it. The Government have already tried to remove it in April and again in June, and it was only extended to 31st October because of public pressure. We are still in a global pandemic and the increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases is very worrying. Many businesses are unable to trade as normal. Millions of workers are still reliant on the Job Retention scheme and are now facing an agonising worry over the future of their jobs.
The Government needs to support workers and businesses to avoid a catastrophic wave of redundancies and job losses. Other major economies have committed to long-term furlough schemes with Australia and Ireland’s schemes lasting until next March, while Germany and France’s continuing until December 2021. There is now widespread support for a common sense extension to this life line for workers and employers.
I urge you to call on the Government to change course and extend the scheme to at least March 2021 and to create a sustainable plan for the future including support to:
- The hardest hit sectors, such as aviation and leisure.
- Those areas placed in local lockdown where businesses cannot reopen.
- High-risk people who cannot safely return to work.
The economic and human cost of mass unemployment for years to come is unthinkable and it is the responsibility of the government to prevent. Extending the Job Retention Scheme would cost a fraction of the £500bn used to bail out the banks during the global financial crash. The Office for Budget Responsibility projects a nightmare scenario of unemployment spiralling to 4.1 million by the end of the year, with 1.3 million people going straight from the Job Retention Scheme to claiming Universal Credit. And unemployment in a second virus wave could hit 14.8% – close to one in every seven, higher than France, Germany and Italy.
We are far from through this crisis. Cutting the Job Retention Scheme now would significantly damage our economy in the long-run, devastating key sectors with a tide of redundancies. The human cost would be devastating.
I appreciate your urgent support in this matter; we must act fast in order to protect the futures of our businesses and employees. Urge the government to extend the Job Retention Scheme.