The economic fallout is just beginning – now our movement needs to fight for every job

Mick Whelan

Today marks the beginning of the end of the furlough scheme. It’s a day millions of working people throughout the UK, already anxious about their livelihoods, will fear. Nobody expected the furlough scheme to continue as it was forever. Of course, the scheme would have to be wound down eventually. But the way it is happening, with a cliff edge for our whole economy, without consideration for the sectors that need extra support, and indeed what follows to support those jobs that are at risk, is where any consensus ends.

Many jobs could yet be saved if the government extended the job retention scheme for the parts of the economy that need ongoing support to avoid businesses collapsing and swathes of redundancies. We cannot let the government off the hook. That is why I welcome the Labour Party’s ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ campaign today.

Whilst the Tory government is still busy congratulating itself for setting up the furlough scheme, working people know that this is just the start of the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. The announcements made in the Chancellor’s summer statement were not only insufficient – they were lazy. A one-size-fits-all approach misdirects public money from those who desperately need it to those who do not. We need a targeted approach, and I also welcome that recognition from the Labour Party today.

The thing that makes the Labour Party unique in British politics isn’t just what it has achieved in its past. It’s not about who its leader is or was. It is our structure and the link with the affiliated trade unions that represent over four million working people. This grounding in the workplace is paramount in understanding what support is needed and where. Labour is at its strongest when it draws on this relationship. These trade union members work in every sector, industry and region of the UK economy. Their collective voices are able to articulate the concerns and knowledge of those on the frontline. The union link is the Labour Party’s strongest asset. It gives it the ability to understand the priorities and draw on the experiences of working people – because it is made up of working people.

The trade union movement stands here today ready to work with the party, to give the collective experience and knowledge of our members to help them understand where support is needed, and to help hold this lazy and out-of-touch government to account. We achieve more when we recognise that the Labour Party is part of a movement, and when we understand that our industrial experience must be the guiding mind of Labour Party policy.

We must all get behind the ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ campaign because across the country working people’s livelihoods are at risk, and because economic recovery is reliant on people being in employment, earning a wage and spending that wage. This government does not seem interested in directing support where it is most needed. But this campaign launch is just the start. I look forward to working with the party to draw on trade union voices from across the country and across our industries to direct its policy and to hold the government to account. Our union link is unique, and far more valuable than many realise. Let’s use it.

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