Sunak ‘starving workers back to work’ as he looks to cut the rate of furlough pay

Rishi Sunak
Support us and go ad-free

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to announce an extension to the furlough scheme under which the government subsidises the wages of workers temporarily laid off due to the coronavirus. But reports also suggest he’ll be cutting the level of support. This has led to accusations that the government will be “starving workers back to work”.

At least 6.3 million people are currently having up to 80% of their salaries paid from government funds under the furlough system at a cost of some £8 billion.

Sunak has previously said he was preparing to “wean” workers and businesses off the programme. There was even talk from the government that people had become “addicted” to the scheme. It currently runs until the end of June, but calls have been made for it to be prolonged.

“Starving workers back to work”

It has been reported the programme will continue to September, although the rate of support will be cut from a maximum of 80% of salary to 60%. Labour’s former shadow chancellor John McDonnell voiced his opinion of what this means:

Another Twitter user pointed out the difficulty of living on significantly reduced income:

And another saw obvious consequences:

Is there a safe way to end the scheme?

Sunak last week warned the furlough scheme was not “sustainable” at its current rate although he promised there would be no “cliff edge” cut-off.

Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation thinktank and an early advocate of the scheme, said it should be phased out gradually.

“Moving too quickly could spark a huge second surge in job losses at a time when unemployment already looks set to be at the highest level for a quarter of a century,” he said.

“This policy has made a huge difference in this crisis. It now needs careful and gradual change to ensure the benefits it has provided are secured rather than squandered.”

HEALTH Coronavirus
Easing the lockdown: Ireland & UK key dates (PA Graphics)

Meanwhile, the managing director of leisure operator GLL Mark Sesnan has suggested any tapering should be looked at on a sector-by-sector basis.

He said: “Industries such as leisure and hospitality (should be) protected.

“This is because, in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines, we will have to operate at a significantly reduced capacity.

“In turn, this will have a major impact on the number of staff able to return to work fully.”

For those whose workplaces remain closed or unsafe, it seems clear that a reduction in income will create an impossible dilemma.

Featured image and additional reporting by Press Association

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us