Former PM Gordon Brown is launching a radical UK-wide campaign to stop the coronavirus fallout triggering massive unemployment.
Amid warnings the jobless total could surge from less than 1.4 million to as high as 4.1 million by the end of the year, the Labour stalwart is heading a new national jobs coalition.
The Alliance for Full Employment is backed by the mayors of London, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle and Bristol, plus Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford and Scottish Labour leaders.
Trade unions are preparing to sign up to a list of demands including: a legal obligation on the Bank of England to promote jobs; launching apprenticeships and genuine youth training; extending the furlough scheme; and taking public stakes to save struggling but otherwise viable companies.
Mr Brown writes in tomorrow’s Daily Mirror: “Action is urgent because six months of warnings about the job crisis ahead have fallen on deaf ears.”
Mr Brown, who was the longest-serving modern Chancellor, warns Tory plans to end the furlough scheme on Halloween will unleash horror.
And he urges Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak to copy Germany and France, which are committed to subsidising virus-hit jobs for two more years.
Dan Jarvis, Mayor of Sheffield City Region, said the move would prove the value of communities pulling together.
Mr Jarvis, also Labour MP for Barnsley Central, said: “Amid the economic disruption caused by the pandemic it is essential we build a just recovery, one which helps us create a stronger, greener and fairer Britain and above all avoids the devastating spectre of large-scale unemployment.
“There are few better areas for us to demonstrate the solidarity between the nations and regions of the UK and the potential for collaboration between them.”
The TSSA transport union is the first to endorse the new campaign. General secretary Manuel Cortes said: “The overriding priority of our movement must be full employment in the wake of the economic crisis.
“Our union is delighted to join Gordon Brown and others in making the case for urgent state intervention to save and create jobs. Full employment is an idea whose time has come.”
The UK’s fragile, service-dominated economy took one of the world’s worst batterings.
Overall, 9.6 million workers have had wages paid by the state through furlough, at a cost of £35billion.
Small firms have been most likely to put staff on the scheme. Now it is set to wrap up, experts at home and abroad are ringing alarm bells.
And our official fiscal watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, projected the nightmare scenario of unemployment spiralling to 4.1 million by the end of the year.
The dire outlook included 1.3 million going straight from furlough to dole.
And unemployment in a second virus wave could hit 14.8% – close to one in every seven – according to the Paris-based OECD rich club of 35 nations.
That would be higher than France, Germany and Italy.
The current official UK rate is around 4% and if a second wave is avoided the OECD forecasts the jobless total still hitting 11.7% by the end of the year – the highest since an 11.9% peak in 1984.
Even a Bank of England forecast more optimistic than its early predictions warned unemployment could hit 2.5 million, or 7.5%, by the end of 2020.