New ways to protect jobs ‘my priority’ – Sunak

As the Unite union predicts ‘redundancy floodgates’ will open in Britain Chancellor Rishi Sunak says finding new ways of protecting jobs is his priority.

The union has added its voice to the clamour of appeals for the current furlough scheme to be extended beyond the end of October or be replaced with targeted support for employers.

Redundancy notices

A spokesman said many workers can expect ‘a miserable Christmas’ because without ‘a clear and urgent sign’ that the government is doing something ‘employers facing short term struggles will issue redundancy notices’.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said that a signal from the government on targeted extension of the scheme would ‘put a floor under struggling employers who are working hard to stabilise in the face of immense challenges’.

Extension

In a letter to Boris Johnson he said: “With our competitor nations announcing the extension or modification of their jobs retention schemes, we ask that your government recognises the need for UK businesses and workers to receive similar support.”

Now, after unemployment hit its highest level for two years, Chancellor Sunak has said that it was ‘not the right thing to do is to endlessly extend furlough’

Top of my mind

But he added; “Protecting people’s jobs and creating new jobs is always top of my mind and I’m always looking for interesting, creative and effective new ways to support jobs and employment and people can rest assured that it will be my number one priority.

“We are really focused on finding a way through where we can protect our lives, support our economy and suppress the spread of the virus.

It’s a tricky balancing act to get right, but it’s one that we approach with confidence.”

Not always possible

The Chancellor did not give any specifics about what the country might expect as the furlough scheme comes to an end, but said: “I wouldn’t be being honest with people if I pretended that it was always going to be possible for people to return to the job that they had. Now in terms of helping those people, I don’t think the right thing to do is to endlessly extend furlough.

“People don’t want to be at home. They want to be in work and that’s why our plan for jobs is so important, because it helps provide people with new opportunities, going forward.”

Targeted support

Employment minister Mims Davies has also indicated that more targeted support for industry sectors which are struggling may soon be announced by the government.

She said: “There will be sectors that take longer to come back – I don’t think this government is afraid of supporting where we can.”

Figures

Official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show around 659,000 workers have disappeared from the payrolls of British companies since March when lockdown began.

The 16-24 age group has been hardest hit with 156,000 fewer young people in work compared to the previous quarter.

However, the government’s new Kickstart scheme is designed to create work placements for young people with employers receiving £1,500 for every youngster they train.