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MILLIONS of workers face the prospect of poverty and deprivation after being forced into draconian Tier-3 lockdown restrictions from this weekend – with utterly inadequate financial support.
Protesters will take to the streets of Manchester on Saturday, demonstrating against the government’s “disgraceful” treatment of the city region and its workers.
A swathe of the North is now subject to the government’s Tier-3 lockdown, which shuts businesses and lays off hundreds of thousands of workers.
More than seven million people are affected in areas including Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and South Yorkshire.
It was also announced today that Warrington in Cheshire will move to Tier-3 from next week.
Laid-off workers will receive only 67 per cent of their income because Chancellor Rishi Sunak axed the furlough scheme, which maintained wages at 80 per cent.
Hardest hit will be those on the minimum wage of £8.72 an hour.
As the new restrictions were implemented last night, government figures revealed that an estimated £3.9 billion has been fraudulently claimed by some employers who instructed furoughed staff to keep working and pocketed the payments.
HMRC has urged workers to report employers if they suspect furlough payments have been claimed fraudulently.
Saturday’s Manchester demonstration in Piccadilly Gardens, organised by Manchester People’s Assembly Against Austerity, is “in opposition to the government’s disgraceful treatment of Greater Manchester as we are forced into Tier-3 restrictions without adequate financial support.”
Chris Neville, one of the organisers, told the Morning Star: “We believe that the government is failing in its duty to protect the population from coronavirus.
“We fully support the arguments Mayor Andy Burnham has been making as he sought to protect the most vulnerable from the destitution they face after being forced to survive on two-thirds of their income.
“Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have no problem lining the pockets of greedy shareholders by paying private contractors billions of pounds to mess up our track-and-trace system.
“Yet we are told there is no money to help those who will struggle as a result of their workplaces being forced to close down.
“The People’s Assembly demands that this government agrees to Andy Burnham’s requests for a return of the furlough scheme, as well as income-support – at 80 per cent – for the earnings of the self-employed.”
The hospitality industry is one of the sectors hardest hit by Tier-3 restrictions.
Pubs, clubs and bars must close completely unless they usually serve “substantial” meals. Those that remain open have a 10pm curfew.
Hospitality workers have launched a Cancel the Curfew campaign given the lack of evidence to suggest it has any effect on the spread of the virus.
Beginning in Manchester it has been taken up in towns and cities nationwide, including Bristol and London.
Bar worker Adam Wilson from Manchester is one of the organisers.
“A lot of hospitality workers are in dire straits,” he said.
“Every city and major town has a Facebook group where we talk to each other and the campaign started from there. We look out for each other.
“Then it extended to putting pressure on local MPs. Within two weeks we had a question asked in the House of Commons. It’s fully nationwide.”
Speakers at Saturday’s Manchester rally from 12 noon include anti-racism campaigner Deej Malik-Johnson, student Lucy Nichols, who contracted coronavirus while confined to her Manchester hall of residence, Steve North of Unison, and Richard O’Brien of Unite.
Wales also began a two-week “fire-break” national lockdown last night, which economists say will damage the Welsh economy to the tune of £500 million.
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