Ministers prepare for wave of UK job cuts

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Ministers prepare for wave of layoffs as large companies prepare to start layoff consultations before having to start paying part of the cost of workers on leave

On Thursday, Centrica and Johnson Matthey became the last companies listed in London to announce layoffs.

Centrica, the UK’s largest energy supplier, said it would cut 5,000 jobs, including 2,500 for Johnson Matthey, the manufacturer of catalytic converters. Hundreds of manufacturing jobs are also expected to be created at the Nissan plant in Sunderland and the Bombardier plant in Belfast.

Nearly 100,000 jobs in companies with large operations in the UK affected by the coronavirus crisis are now at stake, according to a count of Financial Times announcements and administrations since March. This is likely the tip of the iceberg, with millions of jobs potentially at risk by the end of the year – and many of them in small businesses.

Monday is the last day that companies cutting more than 100 jobs could begin layoff consultations if they want to avoid incurring at least some of the costs of staff on leave from August. Those who cut more than 20 jobs are expected to start consultations by the end of June.

At first, they should only contribute a small portion to staff costs, but some may conclude that jobs are no longer viable, as demand in many industries is unlikely to return quickly to pre-pandemic levels.

Figures released Thursday by HM Revenue & Customs have shown that 3 million of the 8.9 million workers who have been put on leave under the government’s job retention program are in the retail and consumer sectors. hospitality – which may not be able to operate at full capacity for many months.

Ministers fear that many large companies will rush announcements of job cuts in the days and weeks to come.

Colleagues, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is concerned that Boris Johnson’s cautious approach to lifting the foreclosure could lead to heavy job losses.

Sunak said his decision to extend the leave scheme until the end of October and introduce a phased reduction to gradually force companies to absorb more of the cost of the state program would help save jobs.

But one minister said that many Conservative MPs were told by local employers that “layoff notices are being prepared” – a message confirmed by professional organizations.

“We see many redundancy programs between manufacturers,” said Stephen Phipson, director of Make UK, which represents the industry.

“Unfortunately in the next few weeks we will see a lot more job losses. The job retention program may simply have delayed job losses, but not prevented them. “

Most of the job cuts announced so far are in the hardest-hit sectors, with thousands slated for airlines such as British Airways and easyJet, cruise ship operator Carnival and automakers such as Bentley and Aston Martin. The Restaurant group has warned that 3,000 jobs may be cut, while retailers Monsoon and Quiz have confirmed job losses this week.

“That’s when the job retention program is still in place, in its entirety. We are worried about what will happen when the leave ends, “said Steve Turner, Assistant Secretary General of Unite, who is calling on the government to do more to support sectors such as aerospace and automotive.

Sunak held talks with the Congress of Unions and other unions on Thursday to discuss measures to support those who are losing their jobs in the coming months.

He is expected to present the details of a rescue plan next month, including rapid support for the new unemployed, job creation programs in green technology and infrastructure, and assistance for young people struggling to get into the workforce. labor market.

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