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Union leaders warn of return to 80s mass unemployment if bold action not taken to save jobs

Date: 05 July 2020 The heads of the TUC and Britain’s four largest unions have today warned, in a joint statement, of a return to 1980s levels of mass unemployment if urgent action is not taken to support workers and businesses. Published ahead of the Chancellor’s financial statement – they warn there is only a “very small window” to prevent hundreds of thousands from losing their jobs.
The UK is staring at the biggest economic crisis for generations.

Without bold action from the government next week, we face the very real prospect of mass unemployment on a scale not seen since the 1980s. Our message to the Chancellor is simple and stark – we have a very short window to save hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The job retention scheme – called for by unions – has shown what active government can do during a crisis. It rescued companies and saved millions from the dole queue. Now is the time to build on that spirit, not shrink away from the challenges ahead. There are three things Rishi Sunak must do when he gives his financial statement on Wednesday.

First, extend the job retention scheme beyond October for businesses who have a viable future but need longer to build back. This is crucial, especially in at-risk industries like the arts, aviation, aerospace, automotives and hospitality and needs to be allied with a recovery plan for retail and the high street, which were struggling even before Covid struck. This support should be conditional. Companies must not be allowed to drive down terms and conditions for staff.

Second, invest in green infrastructure projects now with guarantees to create jobs across the economy and boost growth and tax revenues.to create jobs across the economy and boost growth and tax revenues. This will need to be on a far more ambitious scale than the £5bn announced by Boris Johnson on Wednesday. And must be accompanied by urgent investment in our overstretched public services. Coronavirus has demonstrated just how much we rely on the NHS, local government and social care. We must invest in these sectors and give key workers the pay rise they deserve.

Third, we cannot afford a repeat of the 1980s. Let's do everything we can to prevent another ‘lost generation’ of young people and to support our most vulnerable communities. Previous recessions have shown all too clearly the consequences of leaving young people without any support beyond a threadbare safety net. A new offer of a guaranteed job for every young person facing long-term unemployment, paid at a real living wage, must be the cornerstone of the Chancellor’s plans.

Other countries have come forward with bold rescue plans.  Working people in the UK deserve the same level of support from our government as we work together to recover from this pandemic and build back better. Unions stand ready to work with ministers and business to steer the country through the choppy waters ahead. To give confidence to workers and the public the government should promote the use of the army of union health and safety reps that exist throughout the economy. But we are clear: act now or see a lasting economic storm.

Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary
Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary
Len McCluskey, Unite General Secretary
Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary
John Phillips, Acting GMB General Secretary

Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 400,000 members. Membership has increased by more than one-third over the last couple of decades. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers