The Government today confirmed that the Liverpool city region is the first to be classed as a ‘Very High’ risk area for COVID-19 transmission and will be subject to further lockdown restrictions.
Pubs, bars, gyms, leisure centres, casinos and betting shops will all close in Liverpool from this Wednesday under the Government’s new ‘three-tier’ system of local lockdown measures – leading Unite to demand that workers affected by the new restrictions be given the same level of support provided by the original furlough scheme.
In a speech to Parliament this afternoon, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed the Liverpool city region would be placed under the toughest measures.
The move is expected to put further strain on the already embattled hospitality sector in the city, with many workers at risk of losing out as businesses are forced to close.
In anticipation of tougher lockdown measures being introduced on a localised basis, Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week revealed a new Job Protection Scheme to replace the old furlough scheme. The new scheme is less generous than the previous Job Retention Scheme and is aimed only at those working for businesses that are legally required to close their doors under the new local ‘three-tier’ system.
Under the new Job Support Scheme, workers at firms legally forced to close will receive two-thirds (67 per cent) of their usual wages.
However, Unite say that this will not be enough for many workers and demanded the Government provide “at least the level of support provided when the jobs retention scheme was announced in March.” The union has also called on the Government to improve the track-and-trace system to ensure locked-down areas can return to normal as quickly as possible.
Unite regional secretary for North West England Ritchie James said: “The spread of coronavirus throughout the Liverpool region can only be brought under control through an efficient and well-functioning test and trace system.
“If the people of Merseyside and the surrounding areas are to be asked to put themselves through another lockdown, they must do so with the knowledge that there is a rock-solid tracking system that will allow the economy to open up again without major disruptions. For all Boris Johnson’s boasts of ‘a world beating’ test and trace system, the country is yet to see even an adequate one materialise.
“The localised lockdown support for workers forced to stay at home is also inadequate, especially for those on low wages. People can barely afford to live on the minimum wage as it is, so how does the government expect them to live on just two thirds of that? Rishi Sunak needs to rethink his approach and provide at least the level of support provided when the jobs retention scheme was announced in March.”