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From The Socialist newspaper, 12 May 2020


Furlough scheme extended - workers need 100% of wages

photo Creative Commons Zero - CC0

photo Creative Commons Zero - CC0   (Click to enlarge)

Rishi Sunak has announced the government's plans for the furlough scheme, which will be extended until October.

Almost a quarter of the entire British workforce have now been furloughed by their employers. As a result, the government is currently picking up 80% of the wage bill for 7.5 million workers, at a cost of 8 billion so far. This is expected to rise to 39 billion by the end of June, a sum equivalent to a year's spending on the NHS.


The government, with no plan for jobs or protecting workers living standards, is trapped. It is fearful of the growing costs of the scheme, but panicked by the rising predictions of unemployment. This is expected by some to rise from 4% to well over 10% - a level not seen since the 1970s - with all the subsequent problems that would bring.

Prior to the announcement on Tuesday 11 May, it seemed as if the government was about to relax the rules and allow workers to be able to return to work part time and claim part-time furlough money.

There were also proposals to reduce the amount of wages that could be claimed from 80% down to 60%, in order to both save money and force workers back to work, despite unsafe conditions.

If implemented, these proposals would have reduced government spending, and at the same time greatly increased poverty for workers already struggling with loss of income, with many forming part of the extra 1.8 million benefit claimants.

In the end, fearing the economic and social consequences of these proposals, the government backed off and extended the scheme for four months. Even many of the so-called free marketeer bosses were demanding that the government maintain the scheme post-June.

Even before the extension, millions of low-paid workers were struggling to pay the bills and, in some cases, put food on the table, because of a 20% cut in wages. Many are already falling into debt. For these workers, four more months on poverty pay could be disastrous. Some could feel compelled to go back to work, even if their workplace is not safe.

Poverty or safety is no choice

It is vital that the trade unions take a stand and demand that the government pay 100% of wages as the only way of protecting all workers. No worker should be faced with a choice of poverty or return to a workplace that may threaten the lives of them and their families. No worker unable to return to work because of a government-imposed shutdown should be out of pocket.

And it's time we started demanding the opening of the books of the big corporations who are happy to hold their hands out for bailouts while trillions lie idle in their bank accounts - money which could more than provide the funds to protect the livelihoods of workers.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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In The Socialist 12 May 2020:

What we think

Stay alert to bosses putting profit before safety

Tories put profit before lives - unions must stand firm on workplace safety

Furlough scheme extended - workers need 100% of wages


No going back to unsafe schools

Workplace news

Dispatches from the front: bosses prepare fresh attacks on NHS

Transport union RMT tells members: refuse to work in unsafe conditions

Leicester care workers face pay cut and worse conditions

West Midlands trade union activists discuss the battle for safety on the front line

Spanish flu 1918

The Spanish Flu of 1918 and how it "fanned the flames of revolt"

Lessons from history

A new world order - global reconstruction after World War Two

'Victory in Europe' 75th anniversary: A resurgent workers' movement and the fight for socialism

Socialist planning

Pandemic shortages caused by capitalist market - socialist planning is the alternative


Safe social-distancing car-cavalcade protests

Starmer in full retreat over C-19 rents crisis

Readers' opinion

Johnson's plan terrifies me - readers react to lifting lockdown

Going Viral: Socialist comments and letters on the corona crisis


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