We must demand new deal to halt tsunami of mass unemployment

This article first appeared on Mirror.co.uk

It is time to tackle this Government head on – and demand a new deal to stave off the worst recession in modern history and halt the coming tsunami of mass unemployment.

To accelerate urgent action, English Labour mayors and Scottish and Welsh Labour leaders are today announcing a new UK-wide Alliance for Full Employment.

The Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford,the Mayors of Bristol, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and Scottish labour leaders pledge to work with colleagues in every region and nation of the UK to create good jobs for the future.

Action is urgent because six months of warnings about the job crisis ahead have fallen on deaf ears in No10 and No11 Downing Street. The prospects for winter 2020 are now bleak.

On October 31st – cliff edge day for thousands of jobs – the furlough scheme that has helped nine million workers ends and thousands of jobs will vanish over night.

It’s replacement – the post-October £1,000 payment per job retained – comes nowhere near the average wage.

The £13-a-day, stay-at-home payments where local lockdowns are declared are too miserly and as a result even employees who are carrying Covid-19 may feel compelled to go to work simply to keep food on the kitchen table.

The youth employment plan offers just six months at only 25 hours a week.

And thousands of businesses will face bankruptcy as their crisis loans are called in long before trade gets back to pre-crisis levels.

I fear that, despite Government claims to the contrary, we are heading back to the austerity years.

Remember 2010 when the youth jobs scheme was butchered, educational help savagely cut as educational maintenance allowances were axed and university tuition fees trebled. Top rate tax cuts were handed to the richest to be paid for by social security cuts hitting the poorest.

Then unemployment shot up by a quarter of a million in only a few weeks But right now, across Europe, detailed schemes are being drawn up for a green new deal; for subsidising part-time works; and for a boost to infrastructure investment.

And it’s time we acted too. Here are examples of what we could do:

  • A new constitution for the Bank of England that requires them to take action on unemployment as seriously as action on inflation – with no interest rate rises until unemployment is again belowpre crisis levels
  • A revamped Growth Fund with regional hubs to buy shares in viable firms to replace unrepayable loans
  • Continued furloughs where there are local lockdowns
  • Subsidies for part-time working through 2021 – as in Germany and France – particularly in key slow-to-recover sectors
  • Front-loading big infrastructure projects so they become shovel ready soon
  • Continued links to Europe’s job-creating science and skills programmes such as Horizon and Erasmus which non-EU countries can join
  • A jobs-creating Green New Deal – perhaps also linked to Europe’s bold plans for hydrogen, wind and wave power, including a North Sea grid
  • And most of all for the 500,000 young people who have left school, college, university and training, joining 250,000 already unemployed – a genuine guarantee that gives each one the chance of work training or education.

But how DO we persuade No10 and No 11 that action is urgently needed? We have to consider new ways to change their minds. A new possibility for political change has opened up.

For if the democratically-elected mayors, councillors and representatives of the regions and nations mobilise together, and if they can work with business, trades unions and concerned citizens they can pressure the government into job creating policies that make sense of the local needs of the people they represent.

As the Welsh First Minister and the Metro Mayors say , backing Keir Starmer and Anneliese Dodds’ inspirational campaign for jobs: “We need to mobilise all the resources of the UK and all of us need to work together to end the recession and create good, quality jobs.”

It CAN be done.

There is nothing inevitable about mass unemployment.

~ Gordon Brown

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