Labour has launched a new ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ campaign and warned that a failure to reverse the “disastrous one-size-fits-all plan” adopted by government for ending the furlough scheme would be a “historic mistake”.
The campaign comes as businesses across the UK prepare for changes being introduced to the coronavirus job retention scheme on August 1st, which will require employers to make National Insurance and pension contributions.
For September, the further tapering of the scheme will see employers required also to pay 10% of furloughed employee wages, while in October they will pay 20% to top up wages, before the scheme comes to an end.
With just over 24 hours remaining before the changes kick in on Saturday morning, Anneliese Dodds has said: “It’s not too late for the Chancellor to see sense, change course and support the businesses and sectors that need it most.”
She has argued that the contributions, which are the first stage in the government’s plan to wind down the furlough scheme between now and October, would be a “python-like squeeze on jobs” for those industries worst hit by Covid.
The Shadow Chancellor will be joined by Keir Starmer on a visit to a manufacturer in Peterborough to launch the campaign on Friday. Dodds is expected to accuse the government of having “failed to match up to the scale of the crisis”.
The party has said that the campaign will “highlight one of the most important issues facing the country – supporting jobs, workers and businesses through the coronavirus crisis”. Dodds and Starmer will unveil the campaign’s five pledges:
- “Fight for jobs by reforming the furlough scheme so that it supports jobs in the worst-hit sectors and targets aid to struggling industries;
- “Back our businesses by setting up a £1.7bn fightback fund to prevent firms going under and save our high streets;
- “Leave no-one behind by providing additional support to areas forced into local lockdowns, supporting the self-employed and helping those left out of existing schemes;
- “Keep workers safe by protecting workers’ rights, boosting sick pay, making workplaces safe and giving our NHS and care services the resources to avoid a second wave; and
- “Drive job creation by investing in infrastructure, accelerating progress towards a zero-carbon economy and increasing access to skills and training opportunities.”
Commenting ahead of the changes to the furlough scheme, Dodds said: “The Chancellor’s refusal to abandon his one-size-fits-all withdrawal of furlough is a historic mistake that risks a python-like squeeze on jobs in the worst-hit sectors.
“The reward for months of hard work and sacrifice by the British people cannot be a P45. It’s not too late for the Chancellor to see sense, change course and support the businesses and sectors that need it most.
“But even if he does, there is still much to do. That’s why Labour is today launching the ‘Jobs Jobs Jobs’ campaign – to offer concrete, constructive proposals that would protect the economy and people’s livelihoods.
“The government should back viable businesses that are still impacted by coronavirus, support the self-employed and come up with a plan to drive job creation as we emerge from the pandemic.
“And it must ensure our NHS and care services are fully prepared for a second wave – because we won’t recover from this economic crisis until the government gets a grip on the health crisis.”
Labour has highlighted figures showing that footfall for retail and recreation locations was down 40% on pre-pandemic levels on July 25th, unchanged from July 18th. Footfall on public transport is down 37%.
The party cited data from the Office for National Statistics, which showed that 43.7% of businesses in arts, entertainment and recreation had reported being temporarily closed or having paused trading between June 29th and July 12th.
The information provided by the statistics authority also shows that 71.8% of businesses in the arts and entertainment sectors, and 83.9 % in food and accommodation industries, reported turnover down from what they would normally expect for this time of year.
Labour has repeatedly urged the government to change its approach to Covid support and end what it calls a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. It said earlier this month that the contributions will be a “step too far” for many businesses.
The party has also warned that certain towns and areas will be disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Starmer this week described a growing jobs crisis faced by towns across the UK heavily dependent on domestic tourism.