The Workers Union has urged the government to protect working people from paying for the COVID -19 crisis.
The announcement came as the collapse of Debenhams sent fresh shockwaves through the UK’s economy.
Administrators had hoped to find a solution to the retail chain’s woes, but the uncertain future of Arcadia – its major supplier – saw JD Sports pull out of negotiations to buy the brand.
Debenhams has been struggling for some time and had previously entered administration in 2019 and 2020. The collapse of the business will lead to the closure of 124 stores and puts 12,000 jobs at immediate risk.
The Workers Union Says
COVID, the economic collapse of the noughties and pressure from online have taken a massive toll on the high street. Where once these places were thriving centres of trade and commerce, now many of them are characterised by taped up painted windows.
In the time it’s taken the high-street to disintegrate, the rich have grown richer, while people struggling to put food on the table have found getting by ever more difficult.
It should come as little surprise therefore, that a recent report from the Legatum Institute drew attention to the poverty crisis in modern Britain.
The report showed that those who have been hardest hit by the COVID are in low-paid employment, are working in the hospitality sector or just have the misfortune to be young.
At the same time, poverty amongst working-age adults has increased by 640,000.
For workers already pummelled by rising rents, the housing crisis, job insecurity, automation and flatlining wages, COVID is the coup de grâce. The retail crisis is merely one ugly flowering of this general tendency and should not be seen in splendid isolation from the wider economy. Rather it is an indicator of deep problems that are only likely to get worse if a fundamental change in our assumptions about jobs, pay and the role of “wealth creators” fail to materialise.
For money can always be found to prop up banks or pay shareholders – even when a firm is struggling in what is euphemistically described as “difficult trading conditions”. The unwritten assumption is that value is only created from the top and not by the people whose labour makes a business work on a day-to-day basis. It is this thinking that makes working people a dispensable strain on a balance sheet and not a living, breathing asset to be nurtured and rewarded.
A Better Future
Too often ordinary people pay for the incompetence of bosses, politicians and the multi-national forces that dominate their lives. When the time comes for the country to start picking up the tab for furlough, the government must not punish those on low incomes with tax rises or a further dilution of the benefits system. Rather it should look to take money from those who can afford it, and consider the contribution of British workers during lockdown as reason enough to offer them a better deal.
The Workers Union – fighting for working people everywhere