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THE TUC will lead calls today for ministers to abandon plans to dump the furlough scheme on which 9.6 million workers depend.
Trade unions, the Labour Party and business organisations are united in opposition to the Tory government’s plans to abolish the job retention scheme on October 31.
The TUC, along with the Commons Treasury committee, the Labour Party, employers’ groups the Confederation of British Industry and the Federation of Small Businesses and manufacturing body Make UK, warned the government of the “shock to the economy and the resulting job losses that will come with the abrupt end of the job retention scheme.
During the annual TUC Congress, which is being held online today and tomorrow, general secretary Frances O’Grady will make a direct appeal to Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
Speaking on behalf of six million trade union members, Ms O’Grady will say: “Unions pushed for the jobs retention scheme. Millions of livelihoods were saved — both employees and the self-employed.
“From this Thursday, it will be just 45 days before the scheme ends. That’s the notice period that companies have to give if they intend to make mass redundancies.
“If the government doesn’t act, we face a tsunami of job losses. So my message to the Chancellor is this: ‘We worked together once before. We are ready to work with you again, if you are serious about stopping the catastrophe of mass unemployment.’”
Ms O’Grady will call on Mr Sunak to “stand by working families — don’t walk away.”
She will add: “The pandemic isn’t scheduled to end in October, so neither should state support for jobs.
“It’s so much better to keep people working, paying their taxes, spending and helping to rebuild the economy.
“The price of unemployment is always too high. And it’s always paid by ordinary working families.”
The TUC is urging the government to follow the examples of Austria, France and Germany, which have adopted a “short-time working” scheme in place of furlough.
Ms O’Grady will say: “When the crisis began, the Chancellor said he would do ‘whatever it takes.’ He must keep that promise.
“Some will ask can the country afford to do it? The answer is we can’t afford not to.”
An initial 450,000 redundancies have been predicted by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) when the furlough scheme is abolished, rising to 700,000 in the coming months.
IES director Tony Wilson said: “This data lays bare the scale of the jobs crisis that we’re facing in the autumn, with half a million people likely to lose their jobs in the coming months.
“Our top priority must be to support those facing the prospect of losing their jobs to find new, secure and good-quality work as quickly as possible.
“We also mustn’t accept that all of these redundancies are inevitable.”
Mr Wilson warned that although most of those who were furloughed by their employers were now back at work, there were still “many parts of the economy where perfectly viable businesses cannot bring people back because of the ongoing disruption caused by the pandemic.”
He called for a “tightly targeted support” to help firms ride out the next few months, enabling them to commit to avoiding redundancies.
Workers can follow the TUC Congress at tuc.org.uk/Congresslive
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