Getting Scotland working again
Working from home sounds good; the practice, however, is quite different. It doesn’t take many days until you long to go back to work. Nevertheless, it is important that those of us who can work from home, do work from home: it is our contribution to fighting Covid-19.
For some people there is no work to do and day-time TV isn’t all it’s cracked out to be. For others, working from home has left them working round the clock.
My staff and I were pretty overwhelmed at the beginning of the shutdown. We were inundated with messages from people concerned for their futures, with no reassurance readily available. We have battled to try and find answers for them. What is clear is that the normal channels do not work – it seems that the best way to get an answer from a Minister is to tweet them rather than table a question.
This communication breakdown and lack of response from ministers has been really frustrating because I hear the problems that people are facing daily and I am desperate to help. As with every crisis we hear the good and the bad – it seems to affect people very differently.
I hear of employers, keeping their workforce home, safe and on full pay, despite struggling to keep their companies afloat.
I also hear about those employers who have made people redundant immediately. Hopefully many of these employers have now re-employed their staff and applied for the furlough finance, although I believe there are those who have not.
I would appeal to government that those who do not engage with fair work practices and protect their staff do not receive support from the public purse for their own businesses.
We hear of people being forced to work in unsafe workplaces, not least those on the frontline such as health and care workers who are still struggling to get the protective clothing and masks that they so badly need.
Others are less obvious and out of sight. I have had many requests to contact people’s employers because they do not believe they are doing essential work, and they do not believe they are being protected. We need clearer advice, something that has also been flagged up by business leaders.
This week, the government’s Job Retention Scheme was officially launched. More than 67,000 claims for furlough finance were made within the first 30 minutes of the scheme being live. This clear sign of high demand is testament to the pressure businesses are under and the number of workers that will need furlough funds to get by.
We support the Scottish Government in its aim to back businesses and workers throughout this crisis.
The UK and Scottish Governments must do all that they can to support the businesses and workers of Scotland. Failure to do so risks plunging thousands into poverty.
This week it has been reported that there have been 100,000 new Universal Credit claims made in less than a month since the lockdown began. The prospect of so many people suffering financial hardship is deeply worrying, and we encourage the Scottish and UK governments to do all they can to ensure those in need get the support required.
If we are to provide better prospects for the working people of Scotland after the virus it is imperative that we take every opportunity to protect and support our businesses now.