Trade unions in Wales are again demanding that the UK Government urgently raises wage support to 80% for the full firebreak period.
Union leaders have expressed worry and disappointment that the Prime Minister has not responded to pressure to raise the lockdown Job Support Scheme to give workers 80% of their usual pay, nor did it agree to allowing new starters to access the Job Retention Scheme for the first week of Wales’s firebreak lockdown.
The Bevan Foundation has estimated that around 200,000 workers may be impacted by the firebreak lockdown.
The think tank has highlighted that many of these workers are already low-paid. Their research has shown that half of all full-time workers in accommodation and food or in retail earn less than £20,000 a year, or around £375 a week. A reduction to 67% of earnings means the typical full-time worker in these industries loses £125 a week.
Nick Ireland, Divisional Officer of the Union of Shop Distributive & Allied Workers (USDAW), said: “The people of Wales elected our Welsh Government to make decisions over public health, and now Boris is trying to punish us by not playing fair over the wage support schemes.
“Responsibility for this lies firmly at the door of Number 10. The UK Government is responsible for wage support, and it can’t try to use Welsh workers as pawns to stop our government taking the necessary public health measures.
“We’ve been working closely with Welsh Government to see what can be done to try to fix some of the holes in the UK Government’s safety net, looking at business support and discretionary funds to try to make sure that people get by.
“But this isn’t Welsh Government’s responsibility, and the UK Government needs to urgently work with them to fix this and make sure that no workers goes without.”
Karen Loughlin, Regional Secretary of UNISON, said: “Welsh Government are right to take decisive action now to try to contain the virus.
“But it’s an absolute disgrace that the UK Government are undermining the public health measures by not providing adequate wage support for workers. It’s an affront to devolution .
“Yet again Boris is not willing to help many of the lowest paid people get by, leaving many without access to any wage support at all.
“At the very least, he needs to fund a lockdown Job Support Scheme that means workers are entitled to 80% of their usual pay so that more people aren’t forced to use food banks to survive.”
Wales TUC President and Regional Secretary of GMB, Ruth Brady, said: “It’s unbelievable that the UK Government has not responded constructively to Welsh Government over the past week to plug the gaps in their wage support programmes.
“As a result, far too many workers in Wales will not get the help they need during this firebreak lockdown.
“And despite the Chancellor’s announcement yesterday, from the start of November the new Job Support Scheme will only provide people with 67% of their wages.
“For most workers, especially those on the lowest pay, a one-third fall in wages will make it extremely hard for them to pay their bills and feed their families. Wage replacement should be at the 80% level of the current furlough scheme – and there is still time for the UK Government to think again on this.
“There are people across Wales who are now facing real hardship.
“Our priority is making sure that they get the financial support they need and that the schemes available to them – such as the Welsh Government’s Discretionary Assistance Fund - are well-publicised and as easy to access as possible.”