Today is the day the “floodgates” could open for millions of workers to lose their jobs, a union leader has warned Boris Johnson.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey warns workers face a “miserable” Christmas after the furlough scheme ends on October 31.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, the union chief warns today is 45 days before the scheme ends – the time large firms must take to consult on redundancies.
He writes: “With no sign yet of your government moving to extend or modify the scheme, there is the very real fear that this landmark will open the floodgates for redundancy notices as employers seek to comply with the 45 days’ notice period.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday promised he will be “creative” to fill the void left by furlough in struggling sectors, including the arts and entertainment.
But he has repeatedly refused Labour’s calls for furlough to extend flexibly to the hardest-hit sectors beyond Halloween.
Downing Street yesterday made clear there were no current plans to extend the scheme.
A No10 spokesman said: “The Chancellor’s been clear and I quote – it’s not something that can carry on indefinitely.
“And he’s set out a timeframe for the furlough scheme to come to an end.”
The Chancellor updated the Cabinet yesterday, where he reportedly said he was taking account of soaring virus rates and local shutdowns like in Bolton.
However, he also gave no promises when confronted by MPs in the Commons.
No10 said his focus in Cabinet was in “emphasising the need to support those who are unemployed into work”.
Mr Sunak told MPs: “Businesses do need support, which is why many of the interventions that we have put in place – for example, the business rates holidays and, indeed, our support for the economy and jobs through initiatives such as our stamp duty cut to catalyse the housing market – last through to next year.
“Throughout this crisis I have not hesitated to act in creative and effective ways to support jobs and employment, and I will continue to do so.”
Unite fears that without an urgent sign of the Government responding to calls from across business and the political spectrum for longer term support to save jobs, employers facing short-term struggles will issue redundancy notices.
Mr McCluskey urged the Prime Minster to announce a modification of the furlough scheme, along with targeted assistance for sectors such as manufacturing, aviation and hospitality.
A Treasury spokesman said: “The furlough scheme has done what it was designed to do – save jobs and help people back into employment.
“And many of our unprecedented interventions – including the Job Retention Bonus, business rates holidays, VAT cuts and the Kickstart Scheme – will ensure this support continues into next year.
“We’ve not hesitated to act in creative and effective ways to support jobs and we will continue to do so as we recover from this crisis.”