“The fight to prevent soaring unemployment is paramount. We need to build a movement that demands the Government takes the action needed to create full-employment with well-paid secure jobs for all.“From the #PeoplesPlan
By Siân Errington, Labour Assembly Against Austerity, Hornsey & Wood Green CLP & contributor to Futures of Socialism : The Pandemic & the post-Corbyn Era (Verso)
On Wednesday the Conservatives announce their latest Budget (one year spending review.) Already trailed is the pay freeze – a cut in real terms – for many public services workers. This is after a decade of cuts to the wages of these workers, including the lowest paid such as local government workers. It is the latest reminder of what this government can find money for when it wants to – an extra £16 billion for defence spending and billions doled out to repeated failures such as Serco and others – yet scant action when it comes to providing people with secure and decent incomes.
Additionally, even the basics remain unaddressed over eight months into the pandemic; Statutory Sick Pay is still a paltry £96 a week; no minimum wage floor to furlough continues; the question mark over whether Universal Credit will be cut by £20 in April hangs and the looming threat of a staggering rise in unemployment is growing.
The estimates for how high unemployment could climb next year are currently centring around 7% – which is close to 3 million people – but with a degree of uncertainty that means it could reach 10%, approximately 3.5 million people. We know the ramifications of mass unemployment can be felt for years; not just in cold economic terms but as households are broken up as they buckle under the financial strain and peoples physical and mental health suffers.
High streets become boarded up – as widely reported, the ONS found that one in seven businesses is teetering, and have little or no confidence they will survive the next few months. The words of Bank of England representatives that they believe this episode of mass unemployment will be “less painful” than those of the 1980s or early 1990s is cold comfort to those on the receiving end.
A rise in unemployment such as what lies ahead without Government action is one of the starkest illustrations that economic policies are truly about the type of society we are, and the society we want to be. The goal of a Government’s economic policy should be for all to have a secure and decent income, with inclusive and supported routes to us achieving full employment at the heart of this.
The pandemic was unexpected and its impact on the economy extraordinary. But the levels of unemployment and poverty that are currently forecast are not the inevitable outcome of this pandemic. These will be the outcomes of the Conservative’s making. And the risk with this government is two-fold. Not only is there the threat of mass unemployment, but that this headline unemployment will then be brought down by an explosion in insecure, low paid work. It will be the farcical and unnecessary sequel to the Conservative response to the growth in unemployment they caused in 2010 and 2011.
As highlighted in the call for a People’s Plan, which has been signed by over 15,000 Labour members “The fight to prevent soaring unemployment is paramount. We need to build a movement that demands the Government takes the action needed to create full-employment with well-paid secure jobs for all”.
The Tories were grudgingly forced to reinstate the furlough scheme on the eve of its expiry, with it now extended until March 2021. Political pressure must now be exerted to force actions that can still avert a sharp rise in unemployment. The TUC have put forward concrete plans for how the Government could create 1.34 million jobs by 2022 by investing in infrastructure such as broadband housing and transport and act to create 600,000 public service jobs. Trade unions and campaigners have put forward how packages of support can be put in place for sectors to protect the jobs that people have, and to transition our economy to one that is sustainable and has higher living standards for all. The fight is to ensure that this is the metric by which the Conservatives’ economic response to this crisis is judged.
- The full #PeoplesPlan can be read below. Add your name at http://bit.ly/planforthepeople
- Join John McDonnell, Apsana Begum, Richard Burgon & more on 25th November at 7pm our event responding to the spending review – For a #PeoplesPlan to Protect Jobs & Livelihoods – register here.
A Plan for the People – Add Your Name!
The economic crisis we now face is set to be the worst any of us have experienced. We urgently need to transform our economy and society to ensure that people’s jobs, livelihoods and health come before private profit.
DEFEND LIVINGS STANDARDS AND JOBS – INVEST IN OUR FUTURE
The fight to prevent soaring unemployment is paramount. We need to build a movement that demands the Government takes the action needed to create full-employment with well-paid secure jobs for all.
This will need massive, sustained investment in our infrastructure, in council housing, transport, public services, industry and beyond.
We must eradicate financial insecurity through a minimum earnings guarantee at a decent level, ensure Statutory Sick Pay at living wage levels, support for renters, and build a Social Security System that is universal and not punitive.
The crisis has shown we need trade unions more than ever. Greater union rights and freedoms will help end the exploitative zero-hour and precarious contracts that dominate our economy, save jobs and give workers a proper say in their workplace.
REBUILDING TO TACKLE THE CLIMATE CATASTROPHE AND ACHIEVE SOCIAL JUSTICE:
We must rebuild in a way that tackles the existential threat of climate breakdown with ambitious, redistributive policies that put jobs, equality and improving people’s lives first. Research shows £85bn investment in green infrastructure could help create 1.24 million jobs in 2 years.
The state must urgently invest to create high-quality green jobs and technologies through a Green New Deal, providing a just, environmentally sustainable transition of our industries and infrastructure by safeguarding the employment of all.
UNIVERSAL, PUBLICLY-OWNED SERVICES:
Our public services provided the vital support needed during the pandemic. But this crisis also sharply exposed how a decade of austerity and privatisation has left them at breaking point. We need to rebuild them to be the world class services our communities deserve creating hundreds of thousands of socially useful jobs at the same time. Only public ownership and universality will ensure access to our public services.
Our transport system should be integrated and upgraded, with the railways and buses publicly owned and education properly funded and free for all. NHS under-funding, staff shortages and privatisation must end. We urgently need a public, universal social care service.
EQUALITY FOR ALL:
This pandemic has shone a spotlight on the deep structural inequalities in our society. Now is the time for real change. The dismantling of systematic inequality and liberation for all must be at the heart of how we rebuild better.
The Black Lives Matter movement has rightly pushed the structural racism to the top of the political agenda. Real government action, not just words, is now needed.
Women and disabled people have already seen a rolling back of equality gains under the Tories and these risk being further undermined, while LGBT+ people face a reactionary government which is not afraid to use the tactics of divide and rule. We must demand an end to the scapegoating of disabled people on benefits.
- Add your name at http://bit.ly/planforthepeople