The leader of the country’s most influential trade union, Unite, has welcomed the news today (Friday) that the government will extend the furlough scheme until the end of June.
Unite has been lobbying hard for an extension amid deepening concerns that businesses would go to the wall without the certainty provided by the job retention scheme, whereby the state covers 80 per cent of workers’ wages if they have been placed in furlough.
The scheme, which has yet to start to pay employers placing their workers into furlough, was fought for by Unite, the TUC and business as the means to avoid an immediate collapse of employers.
Its introduction was heralded by the union as ‘a bold and necessary’ initiative but Unite had been fearful that the government would seek to fold the scheme at the end of May and before the economy and companies have had the chance to recover.
Welcoming today’s news of the JRS’s extension, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The government took a great step forward when it brought in the JRS. Yes, there have been gaps and teething troubles but the fact that employers were told that the state would stand behind their employment costs if they stand behind their workers has helped stave off mass unemployment.
“So we’re hugely relieved to hear the announcement today that the scheme will last at least until the end of June, and thank them for listening to our pleas for an extension.
“This will greatly assist employers who face weeks and months of uncertainty ahead as they try to navigate the impact of an unprecedented economic shutdown.
“Our very real fear was that the withdrawal of government assistance too soon would force good, viable companies to the wall and cause dole queues the likes of which we have not seen for generations.
“We understand that the cost to the country of the furlough scheme is hefty but the economic and human cost of mass unemployment for years to come is simply never a price worth paying.
“This is a matter of duty, and the duty of the government is to do, as it has repeatedly promised to do `whatever it takes’ to support the people during these extraordinary and frightening times.
“With this clear statement from the chancellor that the furlough scheme will not be withdrawn in the coming weeks, our appeal now is to employers to do the right thing by your workers.
“Turn to this scheme, keep people safe and keep workers in their jobs until they can return to work.”