Unite general secretary Len McCluskey is calling on the government to act by this week’s end to announce a comprehensive incomes support package to reassure millions of worried workers that this disease, which poses huge risks to public health, will not punish them economically too.
The Unite leader is also calling for a meeting with the chancellor and his team so that the unions can lay out the impact of this virus on workers’ incomes and future job security.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The calls now for major government action to defend incomes are coming from right across the political and social spectrum. I urge Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak to hear them and to act swiftly.
“I am calling now for an urgent meeting between the Treasury and trade unions, including Unite, so that we can set out the reality of this virus for working people and the comprehensive package of measures that are needed to stave off nationwide penury.
“A comprehensive package of incomes support must be forthcoming by the end of this week or millions will fall into poverty. This will ruin our economy and take us into a recession economists say will be unlike anything seen before.
“We are working with our sister unions in Europe to monitor the support to workers there. The steps being taken by the Italian and Spanish governments, for example, are sensible and show what can be done by the state in a time of need. From the US to New Zealand governments are doing the responsible thing in acting to provide wage-level support. UK workers cannot be left to fend for themselves.
“While loans may work for some businesses, our experience has been that those monies don’t get any further than the boardroom. Workers are the people who spend in our shops and high streets. They need a steady supply of cash on a level that recognises the cost of living directed into their pockets or our economy will seize up. Our meagre benefit allowances just won’t cut it.
“This is a time like never before and it demands action from government like never before. My call now to the prime minister and his chancellor, is please act. Working people are facing an economic catastrophe. They need their government now more than ever.”