Scotland’s battered hospitality sector is bracing for “cataclysmic” job losses as the furlough scheme ends, a union leader warns.
Latests figures show at the end of July, 116,500 Scots were still receiving either full or part-time support from the UK Government’s £66 billion jobs retention scheme.
Business and union leaders insist they now need assurances the support will return if Covid cases spike over winter.
Scotland’s hospitality workers and firms have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic and there are concerns that more jobs could be needlessly lost, said Unite Hospitality union organiser Bryan Simpson.
“Ending furlough while so many workers in hospitality are still reliant on it will be disastrous for job losses in a sector which has already seen 650,000 disappear since the start of this pandemic,” he told The Sunday Post.
“We saw this almost exactly a year ago when Rishi Sunak’s last-minute extension of furlough in October 2020 came too late for thousands as employers big and small had already started the redundancy process.
“With transmission rates continuing to go up, there’s every possibility that we may see another – at least partial – closure of hospitality. Without the safety net of furlough, this would be cataclysmic for an industry which has already been battered.”
GMB union Scotland secretary Louise Gilmour said the furlough “cliff-edge” risks choking an early recovery from Covid-19. “There are viable jobs under threat, so the government must recognise that recovery is a process and not an event,” she said. “For GMB, business as usual is not an option and targeted support should be given to sectors that will take longer to re-adjust from the events of the last eighteen months.”
She added: “What the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed is the absence of an industrial strategy both at Westminster and Holyrood, and while it’s not a panacea to the broad challenges we face, it has shown the need for Scotland to have its own plan for jobs.”
The furlough scheme has been a lifeline to tens of thousands of workers in Scotland since March 2020. After being scaled back over the summer, the scheme came to an end on Friday.
Last month The Sunday Post revealed that thousands of Scots living in poverty are on a cliff edge as the end of a benefits lifeline and furlough threaten to topple many families into crisis.
The widening gap between poorer and more well off will almost certainly widen even further in the years ahead, shortening the lives and curtailing the life chances of children from socially deprived neighbourhoods, experts warned.
Scottish business leaders last night said that although many people may find work in some recovering sectors, there is likely to be a rise in unemployment over winter due to new redundancies.
Charandeep Singh, deputy chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said that many companies in the tourism, aviation and international travel sectors are still subject to restrictions that have depressed their businesses.
The Scottish Government said it had provided over £4.3 billion of business support funding throughout the pandemic in addition to Westminster’s furlough scheme.
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