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Workers face another six months of suffering and a winter of discontent under Sunak’s plans

WORKERS will face another six months of suffering under Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s replacement for the furlough scheme, announced today, which union leaders and campaigners say is “too little too late.”

The Jobs Support Scheme (JSS), a form of wage subsidy for “viable” jobs, will replace the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) that is coming to an end next month, the Chancellor said.

It will subsidise employers to pay staff for working at least a third of their usual hours, with the sum capped at £697.93 per month.

Employers will pay workers for the hours they work, but if they reduce their hours the government would pay one-third of their wages for hours not worked – with employers paying another third and the worker taking a pay cut.

All small and medium-sized businesses will be eligible for the scheme, which starts in November and runs for six months, but larger businesses will have to prove their profits have been hit by the pandemic.

The current self-employed grant will be renewed on similar terms to the new JSS, Mr Sunak said.

And he warned of “difficult” decisions in the future to pay for the programme.

The package once again ignored the arts and creative industries, where many workers are facing redundancies.

Trade Union Congress (TUC) general secretary Frances O’Grady warned there is still “unfinished business.”

She said: “Unworked hours under the scheme must not be wasted. 

“Ministers must work with business and unions to offer high-quality retraining, so workers are prepared for the future economy. 

“The government should target help at industries facing a tough winter, and provide more support for families most at risk of hardship and debt.”  

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka called the measures “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,” he said.

“The Tories’ ideological opposition to increased state intervention is hurting the economy and costing people their livelihoods right now.”

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said it was “an important first step.”

But he added: “Fixing the flawed testing system and providing full sick pay for all are also key to keeping the economy moving.”

Unite’s Len McCluskey said the scheme “cannot be the last word” and called for the government to look at what can be done to create jobs.

“The spectre of mass unemployment still stalks our communities,” he warned.

Bectu leader Philippa Childs said it was clear that the Treasury has once again overlooked the needs of the creative industries.

She said: “The JSS may help some employers, but it will not help to save theatres that are still not able to open due to government restrictions and are already making thousands of workers redundant.

“Without more support, the creative sector will not get through the winter.”

Centre for Labour and Social Studies (Class) director Dr Faiza Shaheen called the announcement “too little to late” for those who have already lost their jobs, and for the sector's hardest hit. 

She said: “What Britain needs is a real budget that sets out how departmental spending would boost a recovery, generate jobs and provide real ‘level-up’ equality. We need more vision and a real industrial strategy.”

Dr Shaheen said the Conservatives’ approach to the economy is “increasingly looking chaotic and reactionary.”

Labour shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds also warned that it was too late for many people who have already lost their jobs. 

She said: “We must ensure measures are as effective as possible at keeping workers in employment, getting unemployed people back into work, and keeping viable businesses in operation.”

But Labour MP Richard Burgon called for a more radical approach, noting that Britain was facing the worst recession in Europe because of “systemic failings.”

He called for “a united programme of demands that we coordinate the whole left around: the left in parliament, the unions, the party membership and social movements,” calling for adoption of a zero-Covid strategy and Labour to campaign for a programme of public works and the Green New Deal to “force the government to change track on health and the economy.”

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