Column: Ending furlough scheme is a mistake


In my column in the East Lothian Courier I look at some of the major consequences of dropping the Furlough Scheme at the end of this month:

“As the furlough scheme ends, it’s going to get worse. For that reason, it’s a huge mistake by the Tory Government to be ending the scheme that has worked well and when some occupations just can’t restart.

“There was a cost to continuing the scheme, but it will be more than dwarfed by Universal Credit claims, along with our economic costs and social harm that will follow. Other countries are doing so, including Germany and Ireland, and so should the UK. It’s a mistake that I fear many will pay a heavy price for.

“But it’s not just in job losses that pain is being felt. Constituents have advised me of their terms and conditions of employment being unilaterally rewritten by management – for the worse as they find themselves on reduced pay and with other rights equally worsened. That also applies whether they have just recently been recruited or have given a lifetime of service.

“There are huge financial pressures on businesses big and small. Hard decisions may have to be made by many to get through these tough times. But firstly, they should be discussed and agreed, not just enforced by management diktat. Engagement with staff and union reps is essential, not just optional or polite. Secondly, and just as importantly, the pain should be shared on an equitable basis. It mustn’t simply be for the lower grade staff but apply to senior executives and shareholders. As ever, the biggest burden should fall on those with the broadest shoulders.

“I raised that issue in Parliament last week. The aviation sector is in trouble and Government support is essential. That I agree with. What’s unacceptable, though, are firms taking public bailouts yet paying huge executive bonuses and shareholder dividends, whilst at the same time firing and rehiring staff on much poorer terms.

“That’s simply unacceptable. Conditions must be attached to Government assistance being given with public funds. Support the business but equally protect the workforce.”

You can read the column at the Courier’s website here.