The furlough scheme should be available immediately at any point to workers that need it in any part of the UK.
The UK Government’s approach to Wales’ firebreak lockdown will have undoubtedly cost some people their jobs and livelihoods. COVID-19 has inevitably created huge economic uncertainty. But the very minimum that we should be able to expect from the UK Government is that they seek to provide stability where they can. That’s what an 80% wage support commitment would help do.
For tens of thousands of lower paid workers in Wales the prospect of losing 20% of their income is simply not affordable and anything beyond that will push them further towards poverty and inequality. We need to see a much greater focus now on how we protect those who are being hardest hit by the closure of parts of our economy, including those that haven't been able to reopen since the start of the pandemic.
There are outstanding questions that must urgently be addressed on issues like retrospective eligibility for workers in lockdown sectors in Wales who did not qualify for support under the previous version of this scheme, on the support offered to those who are clinically extremely vulnerable -are anxious and remain shielding and who cannot work from home, and on the need to provide far better help to the self-employed and freelancers.
The UK Government must learn the lessons of the past few weeks. Large-scale economic intervention is likely to be necessary until a vaccine is widely available. There are no ways of getting through this crisis on the cheap. Trying to cut corners and introducing half-baked fixes won’t work and will only undermine the efforts that we are all making to contain the virus. And they need to quickly and radically improve how they’re working with the devolved authorities.
Our message is clear: give workers and employers the certainty and clarity that they need. Guarantee 80% wage support as a minimum for all future lockdowns across the UK. And fix our broken social safety net by raising the rates for Statutory Sick Pay and Universal Credit and halting the re-introduction of the Universal Credit Minimum Income Floor.