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As jobless rate rises...

Starmer wants new furlough plan as jobs market shrinks

Sir Keir Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer: alternative plan

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer wants the government to introduce a new furlough scheme and outlaw “firing and re-hiring” that could see workers re-employed on lower pay and weaker terms.

Almost 10 million employees have been furloughed since lockdown was imposed in March, but the Job Retention Scheme is due to end on 31 October. Employees placed on leave due to the virus restrictions have received 80% of their pay up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.

Since September, firms have had to start making a contribution to wages as part of the scheme winding down.

The UK government has been reluctant to extend the furlough scheme, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson arguing that it would only keep people “in suspended animation”.

The government insists it is implementing a new plan to protect jobs.

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Sir Keir’s demands, which will be presented to the Trades Union Congress, coincide with new data showing UK payrolls shrank by 695,000 between March and August as employers cut jobs ahead of the winding down of the Job Retention Scheme.

The UK unemployment rate is up from 3.9% in April-June to 4.1% in the three months to the end of July, its first rise since March, the Office for National Statistics said.  The unemployment rate in Scotland rose to 4.6%.

Sir Keir’s proposals include expanding part-time working and rewarding employers who give people hours rather than cut jobs; providing training and support for those who can’t come back full-time, and targeting sectors most in need such as retail, aviation and those hit by local lockdowns.

Sir Keir, who is in self-isolation after a member of his household showed possible Covid-19 symptoms, will also urge the government to outlaw “fire and re-hire” practices whereby companies sack employees but then hire them back on worst pay and conditions.

“These tactics punish good employers, hit working people hard and harm our economy.”

A Treasury spokesman said: “We already have a national plan to not only protect jobs, but to create new ones – and we are implementing it right now.

“Thousands of young people will take their first steps into work through our £2bn Kickstart scheme this autumn and our up to £9bn Job Retention Bonus will help companies bring those on furlough back to work.”



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