Under pressure from extreme circumstances, and from the labour movement, the Tories have backed away from their talk of ending the “Coronavirus job retention” furlough scheme for employed workers or reducing it from 80pc of wages. They have extended the scheme till October.
There is (possibly very significant, and damaging) ambiguity about the meaning of Rishi Sunak’s request for employers to “contribute” to the cost and, in any case, the scheme as it exists is not nearly good enough. But the extension is a victory.
What about the parallel scheme for self-employed people, which expires in June? (It is only just starting to make payments for March-June now.) The government has said nothing about this and, for some reason, there is little fuss so far. That is in stark contrast to the blow-up through which the self-employment support scheme was originally added to the furlough scheme.
If the self-employed scheme ends next month, millions of working people – including very large numbers who are in reality precarious wage-workers – will be thrown into dire poverty, and put under even greater pressure to work unsafely.
The unions and Labour must loudly demand and actively fight for it to be extended too.