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by Kevin Schofield
20 March 2020
Rishi Sunak to unveil plan to subsidise workers' wages to prevent millions losing their jobs over coronavirus

Aaron Chown/PA Wire/PA Images

Rishi Sunak to unveil plan to subsidise workers' wages to prevent millions losing their jobs over coronavirus

Rishi Sunak will unveil a radical package of measures to underwrite the wages of workers facing redundancy due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The move follows intense pressure for the Chancellor to go even further in his attempts to prop up the economy as normal life across the world is put on hold to fight the pandemic.

Sunak has already announced measures worth nearly £400bn to help businesses survive the lockdown through a series of tax breaks, loans and grants.

But MPs from all parties, as well as trade unions and businesses, have insisted the Government must step in to effectively pick up the country's wage bill in order to avoid a wave of redundancies.

Hinting at the support the Government is willing to give, Boris Johnson said: "It is very, very important everybody understands we will stick by business and I hope business will stick by their employees.

“This country is going to bounce back. We are going to need some fantastic companies to bounce back as well. It is absolutely vital that everyone understands that.

“The Chancellor will be saying more about the package we are putting in place for workers across the country to support everybody through this difficult time.

“We have been talking to the trades unions and others today, and we think we will have a great package ready to go. So, I hope people will stick by their employees because we are going to need them.”

Labour has said that workers at risk of losing their jobs or who find themselves temporarily out of work but still on a company's books should have the "bulk of their wages underwritten by the Government".

Under the Opposition plan, those on the lower earner income tax band would see 90 per cent of their pay come from the Government, with the remaining 10 per cent paid for by firms themselves.

For middle earners, the Government would fork out 85 per cent of a workers' wage - with 15 per cent coming from businesses.

And for higher earners, 80 per cent would be state-funded, with the remaining fifth paid by companies.

Talks between the Government, businesses and the trade unions on what the support package should looks went on into the early hours on Friday.

Sunak said: "We are working round the clock to deliver further support to individuals and families whose jobs and incomes will be affected by COVID-19 - and to do so urgently.

"We are in this together, and will all have to play our part which is why today’s meeting was so important.”

Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said: "The TUC and unions stand ready to work with government and employers to protect jobs and livelihoods across the UK.

"As well as providing emergency support to business, it is essential that money goes into workers’ pockets now. We must do whatever it takes to stop businesses going to the wall and workers being plunged into poverty.”

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