More detail needed on protections to workers offered by new UK government jobs support scheme

Jackie Pollock, Unite Regional Secretary

Support announced means those working one-third of their usual hours will receive only 78 percent of their usual pay

Chancellor’s announcement comes too late for many workers who have already lost their livelihoods due to uncertainty

Jackie Pollock Regional Secretary of Unite called for further clarification on the new job support scheme announced today by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak. He raised the question as to whether the new proposal effectively amounted to a 22 percent pay cut for some workers.

Workers have been eagerly awaiting details of the government’s plans for job support after the conclusion of the existing Coronavirus jobs retention scheme in October. There are particular concerns that without support, the economy in Northern Ireland faces a cliff-edge jobs threat.

“We face severe challenges from both the Covid-19 downturn and the continued uncertainty over post-Brexit trading relations. Our economy is uniquely exposed due to our geography and the importance of Aerospace, Aviation, Agri-Food and Tourism/Hospitality sectors which are particularly vulnerable. It is therefore vital that the UK government extend job support measures beyond October.

“Alongside the wider trade union movement, Unite has been engaging with government to secure such a commitment. It is unfortunate that today’s announcement came too late for all those workers who have already unnecessarily and avoidably lost their livelihoods as a result of the total uncertainty which has existed until today.

We are left with many questions about the Chancellor’s job support package: how will this translate in reality when it comes to job security for workers in Northern Ireland? There appears to be nothing specific in terms of support for training and upskilling of those on short-term working and there is no commitment to raise the meagre statutory sick pay provision to enable workers to protect themselves and the public health without falling into poverty.

“Many workers will question whether this new measure by the Tories effectively amounts to a 22 percent pay cut. For those on short working of one-third of their usual hours, pay will fall to 78 percent of what it was previously and there is no clarity on the total wages of those working 50 percent of their normal hours. Unite will study the detail of this proposal and continue to engage with government both in London and Belfast to secure the support urgently needed by workers in Northern Ireland”, Mr Pollock said.

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