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McCluskey response to PM’s speech: Workers urgently need a bridge to the new economy to avert a jobs abyss

Responding to the speech given today by the prime minister, the leader of Unite called for urgent action to extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Len McCluskey, the Unite General Secretary, said: "We welcome the prime minister's promise to build our way back better than before. That's a fine ambition but it has to be matched with the ambition and the investment which accompanied FDR's new deal.  

"Today, however, we appear to have only been promised FDR's loose change and some second-hand spending plans. While the US got the Hoover dam, the pandemic-hit UK gets a re-announcement of repairs to some bridges in Sandwell.

"There is no doubt that this country's frayed infrastructure needs investment, so we hope that there is much more to come from the prime minister. 

"But this can only be part of the promise to the people of the country. The bald truth is that our country is staring at a jobs abyss which will open up this summer and swallow millions of working people. Averting that needs urgent and immediate investment to keep people in work now, with steady wages coming home now, not the promise of an infrastructure project sometime in the future.

"I urge the prime minister to confirm that very soon we will hear that his government will follow in the footsteps of France and Germany with a proper plan to save and grow jobs in the immediate term and on the scale so desperately needed.  

"He should begin by announcing that the Job Retention Scheme will be extended at least until 2021, as it has been in France and Germany, so that there is a bridge between today and the emerging economy he promises.  

"Without that bridge, employers will shed jobs in huge numbers this summer and the trauma and havoc of this virus will give way to the trauma and enduring human misery of mass unemployment."