McCluskey: Working people must not pay for this crisis

Unite, the UK's leading union, has today (Thursday) called upon the government to re-classify as many of the UK's five million insecure workers as possible as employees to ensure that they can be covered by the job retention scheme.

The union is making the call ahead of the Chancellor's expected package of measures to assist insecure and self-employed workers throughout the economic and health emergency, set to be revealed to the country later today.

Unite argues that by removing the insecure status of employment for many of the one in six UK workers in that category - some five million workers - the government will make them eligible to apply for 80 per cent of their estimated earnings

While Unite recognises that not all of the five million precarious workers could be defined as employees, in sectors like construction, cleaning and hospitality where workers have a clear tie to an employer the change in status could have an immediate and positive impact.

The union is also calling for the government to do more to increase the pressure on employers to `do the right thing' and use the jobs protection scheme to avert a collapse in wages and employment, further jeopardising the UK's ability to stage an economic recovery when the covid-19 pandemic has been beaten.

Stressing that Unite is determined to defend every one of its members through this crisis, Len McCluskey, general secretary said: "We are saying to the government and employers that we want them to get one thing absolutely straight: working people will not be made to pay for this crisis.

"We have long warned that it is not sustainable to have millions of workers without status, rights or a secure income, and the sorry proof of this is with us now as non-essential workers continue to head to work because of the appalling choice forced upon them of protecting their health or averting hardship.  

"One is six workers in this country is teetering on the cliff-edge of financial ruin so we are expecting the Chancellor to make good on his promise to do whatever it takes to put a solid floor under household incomes.  We will hold him to his promise.

"Chancellor, it would be very easy for you to change the status of self-employed and precarious workers to that of employees, opening the door to them to access the same rights and protections as the directly employed.  I urge you to do so when you address the country today.

"But we also know that these measures, and those announced last week, may still not be enough to convince some employers that they too have to do right by their workforce.

"We are being inundated with reports of employers who choose to dismiss their workers instead of using the government’s furloughed workers scheme.

"That is why I am saying today to employers that if you dismiss Unite members that you could have retained or you send them home on poverty sick pay when there are provisions for them to be paid at 80 per cent of their salary at no cost to you, Unite will pursue you using every legal channel available to us.

"It is not just the government who says it will do whatever it takes.  Unite will pull every lever we can to defend jobs, keep people safe and protect incomes."