Unite, the country's leading union, is calling upon the chancellor to use the power of his office to fend off mass unemployment and make 2021 a better year for working people.

Writing to Rishi Sunak, the union has outlined a strategy to promote economic recovery and social cohesion in advance of the chancellor Rishi Sunak’s comprehensive spending review (CSR) tomorrow (Wednesday 25 November).

It is calling for the chancellor to reject the 'tired' and failed austerity agenda of public sector pay freezes and spending cuts - and instead adopt a programme that invests in manufacturing, values public services and protects the most vulnerable in society by enhancing incomes as the pandemic continues to take its toll.

Unite said that the chancellor should focus on three main platforms:

  • a strategy for a post-Covid-19 manufacturing economy with investment, employment and training to the fore
  • that promotes social cohesion with generous increases in welfare payments, including continuing the £20 uplift in Universal Credit and increased statutory sick pay (SSP) for those having to isolate, allied with a tax system, recalibrated from the wealthiest for the benefit of millions of working people 
  • and restores the decade-long cuts in the NHS, social care, schools and local government with a pay rise to recognise those workers’ contribution in the battle against coronavirus.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Chancellor Rishi Sunak has an opportunity tomorrow to show that he is listening to the growing chorus of calls to grow our country back to economic health.   

"2020 has been a disastrous year for jobs and incomes, so it is vital that we hear from the chancellor that there will be a massive effort, working with industry and trade unions, to make 2021 a year of jobs’ creation and income’ stabilisation.   

“We must at all costs avoid the prospect of mass unemployment that would scar our economy and the lives of thousands and their families for the foreseeable future.

"Follow the economic wisdom, and invest to stimulate recovery. No re-announced money, no ‘reheated’ ideas, but a comprehensive strategy uniting our country in truly building back better.  Give the economy a much-needed shot in the arm, chancellor, and absolutely do not dent the already incredibly shaky consumer and business confidence.   

"That also means jettisoning the tired orthodoxy of wage austerity.  Not only will yet more wage pain for the nation's frontline workers be a massive snub to people who've gone the extra mile to keep our services running and the public safe during this crisis, it is also economic madness. 

“These five million public sector workers, in the main low waged and women, don't keep their cash in the Cayman islands away from the taxman's grasp. They spend it in our shops, helping our struggling high streets. 

“Attacks on their wages raises only peanuts in the scheme of things yet will cause huge harm so drop this threat, chancellor.  Instead of launching another hit on the poorest, stabilise the finances of the millions of low income households in this country. 

“That means improving statutory sick pay so that those who need to isolate can afford to do so, and it means stating now that the £20 uplift in Universal Credit is here to stay because to remove this cash lifeline will destroy many of those just about holding things together.

“Unite has outlined a strategy that includes an industrial strategy based on investment in the ‘new’ industries, such as electric vehicles and ‘green’ clean energy, and that is underpinned by high-quality training, including a large-scale apprenticeship programme. 

“Where better to start in terms of greening our economy and creating jobs, especially for our young people, than embarking on a massive house-building programme.

“The coronavirus has super-charged divisions in our society, hitting the disadvantaged, the low-paid and BAEM communities hardest.  But mass unemployment and deepening inequalities are not the inevitable consequences of this pandemic. Political choices can avert both.  

"The chancellor must signal tomorrow that he recognises that he has the power and responsibility to renew our country so that 2021 provides a brighter, safer future for all.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

The link to Unite’s letter to the chancellor Rishi Sunak can be accessed by the link below:

https://unitelive.org/unite-gs-to-chancellor-in-this-time-like-no-other-we-need-action-like-no-other/

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065.

Please note the numbers above are for journalists’ enquiries only.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org 

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.