READERS may recall that Keighley TUC has been calling for a short-time working compensation scheme like the German Kurzarbeit scheme.

At the last minute, before millions of workers fell off the jobs cliff, the Chancellor announced the Job Support Scheme. Once again the skills and perseverance of Frances O’Grady (General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress) and her team that were responsible for securing the furlough scheme, alongside employers' organisations and leading economists, have convinced the Government to address the needs of employed and self-employed workers.

The scheme offers a minimum of 77 per cent of earnings. To qualify for support, workers must undertake at least 33 per cent of their normal working hours. For the hours they are not working, they will receive 33 per cent of their pay from the Government and 33 per cent from their employer. Payments will be calculated based on the worker’s usual salary, capped at £697.92 a month, the salary cap of the current furlough scheme.

Keighley TUC welcomes this move, which partially addresses the problems we face and will benefit many local skilled, transport and manufacturing workers who have some work. It will sadly cast many local workers adrift where their employer has been unable to reopen or their businesses do not facilitate short-time working. That is why the trade unions have argued that the furlough scheme should be maintained for the sectors of the economy that cannot fully resume until the virus is controlled.

When the ship is going down the first priority is to get on the lifeboats. But that is just the beginning of the rescue operation. The task is to get to dry land. And it is here that the Government refuses or doesn’t understand the other main part of the European job-saving schemes, training and retraining. The European schemes operate extensive training programmes. Instead of being sat at home, workers learn new skills in preparation for the upturn in the economy.

But to do this you have to have a plan. You have to have involvement of employers, trade unionists and training organisations. You have to have liaison with local schools to prepare school leavers for the changing jobs market. Keighley College should be massively funded and staffed to work in liaison with local employers and trade unions to deliver a training programme geared to future local employment needs.

This is why the TUC calls for a National Recovery Council to plan our way out of the Covid crisis and towards the new economy that will emerge out of it. The Government has wasted the summer months with bluster, boasts, blame-game and ignoring of scientific and economic advice. Taking us all to the cliff-edge is a deliberate strategy to confuse and disorientate people where under the cover of darkness they reward their pals with top jobs and lucrative (un-tendered) Government contracts.

We cannot waste the winter months, or a catastrophe awaits the British people. The Government’s mishandling of the Covid crisis has led to the UK being a ‘world leader’ in all the negatives, from deaths to track and trace.

The Covid crisis and the economic crisis in now one and the same.

It has illustrated that the organisation of working hours is intrinsically linked to childcare and schooling. That work is more than just toil but a social activity as important as family and friends. That exclusion and isolation is damaging to mental health.

The Chancellor is correct that the post Covid economy will be different. But an economy with three million unemployed is neither acceptable nor a basis for recovery.

So we say to the Government show some leadership and some vision. Provide the funds in a targeted way. Put your dogma and ideology in a box. Work out a national strategy that unleashes the talents and knowledge of everyone to collectively work out the solutions to these urgent problems.


President, Keighley Trade Union Council

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