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Never before has the need for unions to stand and fight together been greater

As workers continue to pay the price for the government’s carelessness in its response to Covid-19, joint union activity is going to be vital, says PCS leader MARK SERWOTKA

THIS government has totally failed to get a grip on the jobs crisis facing the country. 

With a tsunami of job losses expected in the coming weeks and months, the government simply isn’t doing enough to prevent economic catastrophe for millions of people. 

It’s crystal clear that the government is failing to meet the challenge it faces, and that’s why trade unions across the public and private sector must come together to defend our communities from its reckless incompetence.

The outlook for the months ahead is bleak and the impact on people’s jobs and livelihoods is going to be devastating. 

Faced with this unprecedented task, the government has yet again come up woefully short. 

The announcements from Rishi Sunak don’t go far enough; the Job Support Scheme (JSS) will go some way to stemming the tide of job losses but much more bold action is required.  

Experts have raised concerns about whether the JSS will incentivise employers to retain part-time staff as we move into the new year. 

The Job Retention Bonus, which gives employers £1,000 for staff that are still on the books in January, will encourage employers to retain part-time staff up to the point when the bonus is paid. 

Once the bonus scheme ends in January, there is no longer an incentive for staff to be kept on. 

Economists have warned that this has created another cliff edge that will be particularly damaging for the hospitality and leisure industry.

The JSS is designed to only support jobs that are viable and can operate under the new restrictions and this leaves sectors that were already struggling completely exposed to further economic damage. 

Businesses that have been running at a much smaller capacity or not at all have been decimated during the pandemic and the measures announced by Sunak do nothing to help them.

The arts sector has already taken a battering from the pandemic and when the furlough scheme ends in October, thousands more will be thrown into unemployment. 

Members from my union, PCS, working at the prestigious Tate gallery have been on an indefinite strike over plans to make 300 staff redundant. 

We’ve received incredible support and the solidarity we’ve had across the trade union movement has been so important. 

Any donations towards the strike fund would be extremely welcome and appreciated. 

As workers continue to pay the price for the government’s carelessness, joint union activity is going to be vital. 

That means working collectively across the public and private sector to protect people’s jobs and guarantee their safety at work during the pandemic. 

The issue of sick pay is going to become a crucial one where unions working together will be key. 

As the number of infections continues to rise and thousands more workers become ill, they’ll be expected to self-isolate and survive on the pitiful level of statutory sick pay. 

There are currently six different sick pay campaigns being run by six different unions and organisations — these groups should work collectively and bring their campaigns together. 

The immediate priority for PCS has been standing up for members during the pandemic but alongside this, we’ve been fighting to right the wrongs inflicted on our members. 

Over a decade of austerity has decimated the Civil Service and our members deserve justice on pay, an end to the great pensions robbery and no more raids on terms and conditions. 

These bread-and-butter issues cut across the whole trade union movement and what workers need is a continued commitment to fight these injustices while collectively opposing the government’s flagrant disregard for their safety and livelihoods during the pandemic.   

It’s completely unacceptable that the government is willing to stand idly by as thousands of jobs and businesses go to the wall and never before has the need for unions to stand and fight together been greater. 

Let’s all unite to build a bigger, stronger trade union movement and ensure a better and fairer future for everyone.  

Mark Serwotka is general secretary of PCS. To donate to the Tate workers’ strike fund visit mstar.link/PCSTateStrikeFund.

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