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Labour's Ian Lavery urges government to crackdown on bosses ‘immorally’ using job retention scheme

A LOOPHOLE allowing employers to sack workers and rehire them on worse pay and conditions during the coronavirus crisis must be closed immediately, Labour’s Ian Lavery said today.

The Wansbeck MP and former Labour Party chair tabled an early day motion (EDM) called the “Immoral Use of Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme” (CJRS).

It notes that 1.1 million employers and 9.2m jobs are being supported by the scheme as of 21 June, to the cost of £22.9 billion to the taxpayer.

The motion adds that there is “the immoral situation of employers using the scheme to consult on making jobs redundant, in many cases permanently, and in others to rehire staff on inferior wages, terms and conditions.”

It also notes that the government has not collected data on how many firms are engaged in such practices, and calls on ministers to immediately assess the impact of companies misusing the CJRS.

Mr Lavery said: “Following high-profile national cases of companies immorally using furlough to consult on making jobs redundant, entirely against the spirit of the scheme, I asked the government to provide figures to show the scale of the problem.

“Sadly, but not entirely surprisingly, I was told that the government do not collect these figures.”

Mr Lavery said he has been contacted by dozens of constituents who have found themselves in the situation where their wages are being “supported by a scheme that literally has ‘Job Retention’ in its name,” but have “seen themselves consulted on with a view to either permanent redundancy or being re-employed on worse wages, terms and conditions.”

“High-profile cases like British Airways have highlighted the ridiculous situation where 42,000 staff are being replaced by 30,000 on inferior terms and conditions, all while the company is paid by the state,” he said.

British Airways’ conduct in April was condemned by MPs from both sides of the Commons.

Transport committee head and Tory MP Huw Merriman accused the company of using the coronavirus pandemic as a “justification to slash jobs and employment terms.”

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey condemned the company for “pleading poverty” while going ahead with a €1bn purchase of Spanish airline Air Europa.  

Mr Lavery is also urging the government to reconsider the CJRS’s “arbitrary cut-off date” of October 31, warning that it would be a “cliff-edge” for workers in critically affected sectors such as travel and hospitality.

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