Monday 14 September 2020 / 10:30 PM Keir Starmer

Government must “show some imagination and act in national interest” to avoid unemployment “scar”, says Starmer

Keir Starmer will today [Tuesday 15 September] call on the government to replace the furlough scheme and outlaw ‘firing and re-hiring’ practices as part of a “genuine national plan” for jobs.

Speaking at the TUC Congress 2020, Starmer will accuse the Prime Minister of failing to get the basics of testing or a plan for care homes right over the summer and of attempting to “re-open old wounds over Brexit.” He will address the PM directly, saying: “Get your priorities right. Get on with defeating this virus.”

The leader of the Labour Party will use the address to call on the government to work with business, trade unions and the Labour Party to avoid the “scarring effect mass unemployment will have on communities and families across the country.”

While Labour has always said the furlough scheme cannot go on forever, the party has consistently warned of the dangers of a one-size-fits-all removal of support from businesses and people still impacted by coronavirus restrictions. Starmer is expected to say that “with a bit of imagination and acting in the national interest, a better approach is possible.”

The principles Starmer will set out for replacing the job retention scheme are inspired by schemes that have been mooted or are in force in other parts of the world. They include:

  • Expanding part-time working and rewarding employers who give people hours rather than cut jobs
  • Providing training and support for those who can’t come back full-time
  • Targeting sectors most in need – including retail, aviation and those hit by local lockdowns
  • Providing certainty for workers and businesses
  • On replacing the furlough scheme, Starmer is expected to say:

“At this moment of national crisis we should take inspiration from our past. Be willing to put party differences aside and work together in the interest of the country. Imagine how powerful it would be if we could form a genuine national plan to protect jobs, create new ones and investing in skills and training? I’m making an open offer to the Prime Minister: work with us to keep millions of people in work. Work with the trade unions and work with businesses. Do everything possible to protect jobs and to deliver for working people.”

Starmer will also condemn ‘fire and re-hire’ – where people are given notice of redundancy and then hired back on worse pay and conditions – as “not just wrong but against British values.” He will call for government to outlaw them.

He is expected to say: “These tactics punish good employers, hit working people hard and harm our economy. After a decade of pay restraint – that’s the last thing working people need, and in the middle of a deep recession – it’s the last thing our economy needs.”

Starmer is also expected to pay tribute to the union movement, praising its work during the coronavirus crisis, saying:

“When it came to protecting millions of jobs and keeping people safe at work it was the union movement that stood up. Without you there would have been no furlough scheme. No life raft for seven million people. The trade unions have always been the unsung heroes of our national story – and through this crisis you have helped to write another proud chapter.”

Ends