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From: The Socialist issue 1087, 20 May 2020: Rich get handouts - workers get pay cuts

Search site for keywords: Covid - Workers - Wages - Unemployment - Pay

Furlough cut-off could force millions back to unsafe workplaces

Tory chancellor Rishi Sunak

Tory chancellor Rishi Sunak   (Click to enlarge)

James Ivens

Will my boss starve me back to work this summer? It's a question that might start keeping 7.5 million furloughed workers up at night under the terms of Chancellor Rishi Sunak's extension. Even those workers most vulnerable to Covid-19 will be pushed to return, the Tories have confirmed.

The headlines focused on the Tory Treasury chief prolonging the subsidy to October - a relief to many. Ominously, however, he also said bosses would have to "share with the government the cost of paying salaries" from August.

Bosses are already meant to be 'sharing the cost'. The subsidy only covers 80% of your wages. But in many cases, the cost of the missing 20% has been 'shared' onto workers, not paid out of bosses' profits! Who can afford a 20% pay cut?

On top of this, Sunak signals the subsidy could fall even lower come late summer. But there's no safe exit strategy in place for the lockdown! Workers could face a choice between a further pay cut, unemployment, or risking your life to patch up the billionaires' profit machine.

And then, responding to questions from third sector employers, the government says that, in effect, vulnerable and disabled workers will be bullied back in at the same time! In fact, the government's 'shielding' category is inadequate as it is. The truth is that many workers who are older, have underlying conditions, or family members who are shielding, already have little option but to work.

It's not acceptable. We demand 100% furlough wages for all, paid directly to workers rather than subsidising bosses. And we demand a guarantee from the government that this will persist as long as workers feel they can't work safely.

And what about the thousands of workers who recently started jobs? Sunak says they can whistle for it.

HM Revenue and Customs needs the info on employees' first payslips to calculate Job Retention Scheme support. So workers who hadn't received one before the 19 March cut-off can't get the furlough subsidy. It's left - you guessed it - to the charity of your boss.

Of course, as an employee, you can't claim unemployment support unless you're made redundant. And the chickenfeed available on Universal Credit - if you're even eligible - can take weeks. Open the furlough scheme to new starters!

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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.

Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.

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Article dated 20 May 2020

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