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Adapt furlough to avoid mass job losses, say unions

THE FURLOUGH scheme must remain and be adapted to avoid an avalanche of lob losses in the autumn, unions demanded today.

As official statistics revealed Britain’s economy remains 4.4 per cent weaker than at pre-pandemic levels despite 4.8 per cent growth last quarter, the TUC warned that a premature end to the scheme in September would cost jobs and undermine the recovery.

The union body also called for a “daughter of furlough,” to create a permanent safety net, similar to schemes already operating in 23 major capitalist countries, as the economy goes through future crises or transitions, such as to net-zero carbon.

And the Unite union called for furlough to be adapted to save potentially hundreds of thousands of people from immediate unemployment when the government pulls the plug — and to mitigate against skills shortages.

Workers furloughed under the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme face a potential double blow if it is axed, as scheduled, on September 30 and ministers choose to scrap the £20 weekly uplift for universal credit (UC) on the same day.

At its height, 11 million workers received 80 per cent of their wages under the scheme and nearly two million remain on it, with employers now contributing 20 per cent.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Chancellor must extend the furlough scheme for as long as needed to protect jobs and keep the recovery moving.

“An abrupt and premature end to the furlough scheme will needlessly cost jobs and harm our economic recovery.”

Unite called on the government to “think again” before pulling the plug and potentially plunging hundreds of thousands of workers into growing poverty as UC would be cut by £1,040 a year.

Warning of an “overnight jobs crisis” on September 30, Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Ending the furlough scheme on the day that UC is cut by £20 a week is heartless, but it is also economically damaging given that this money is spent in our communities on our high streets, protecting further jobs and livelihoods.  

“This scheme was a huge step forward for this country, and put us on a par with other advanced economies. 

“For the government to dismantle it is a purely ideological move which will bring further damage to our economy and working people.”

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