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Liverpool is to introduce its own ‘local furlough’ scheme, with the city’s mayor stating that wage subsidies provided by the government’s expanded Job Support Scheme were not enough to support staff affected by local lockdown restrictions.
According to local news reports, Liverpool metro mayor Steve Rotheram will announce the details of a “top up” local furlough scheme today (15 October), the day after ‘Tier 3’ lockdown restrictions began in the region and forced businesses including pubs, bars, gyms and betting shops to close.
Speaking during a press conference with Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, Rotheram said: “If the government won’t act to protect local jobs and businesses, we will.
“Now that we’re in Tier 3 we face different set of challenges and restrictions that are going to hit the economy so we will be announcing a revised emergency stop gap scheme to take account of the fact that we are now in Tier 3.
“We’re going to have a local furlough and business support scheme that will do what the government has failed to do.”
Pub and brewery group Marstons is among the first major employers to indicate how much it has struggled amid the closures in Liverpool and areas of Scotland, and the 10pm national curfew. It said around 2,150 furloughed employees would lose their jobs.
Marstons said: “The introduction of these further restrictions and guidance affecting pubs is hugely disappointing in view of a lack of clear evidence tying pubs to the recent increase in infection levels, and our own data which suggests that pubs are effective in minimising risks.”
Last week Rotheram, Burnham, the leader of Manchester City Council and the mayors of Sheffield, North of Tyne urged the government provide more support for workers affected by enforced closures and reduced business hours.
They said in an open letter: “We cannot understand why people whose place of work is forced to close by government imposed restrictions are only being offered two thirds of their wages.
“While it may be possible for people on middle or higher earnings to live on two thirds of their salary, that is not the case for the low-paid staff who work in hospitality. They do not have the luxury of being able to pay only two thirds of their rent or their bills.”
There was “no justifiable reason why the [expanded Job Support Scheme] should be set at 67%” when the national scheme has been 80% up until the end of October, the letter says.
“To accept it would be to treat hospitality workers as second-class citizens and we think that is wrong. Many of these workers have already faced severe hardship this year,” it adds.
Without further intervention, there is a risk of “significant” redundancies and multiple business failures, which would plunge residents of northern regions into “severe hardship in the run-up to Christmas”.
“That would cause long-term damage to the already fragile economies of large parts of Northern England and weaken the recovery when it finally comes. It would do the precise opposite of what the government was elected to do and level down the North,” the letter concludes.
The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has been approached for further details on what the local furlough scheme would involve.
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