The New Starter Justice campaign is calling upon MPs to pledge their support for an Early Day Motion which recognises the loopholes in the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. The EDM, started by Angela Crawley of the SNP, draws attention to the “lack of support” for new starters, and “urges the Chancellor to close the loopholes and extend the furlough scheme” to those who have been missed.
It comes as an open letter addressed to Chancellor Rishi Sunak attracts more than 4,000 supporters, including a number of prominent MPs. Released on Saturday, the open letter calls Sunak’s proposed solutions for new starters “wholly inadequate” and criticises the Chancellor for leaving the cracks in the Job Retention Scheme “open and ignored”. The letter is accompanied by a video in which new starters call for the same support as other workers: “we secured our new jobs before lockdown, we had written offers, we signed our contracts… now we need them to count”.
Speaking on behalf of New Starter Justice, organiser Natalie Greenway said: “Through our open letter, we are now calling on Rishi Sunak to come through on his promise and fill the cracks in the CJRS so that no worker has to suffer poverty or hardship unnecessarily. We appreciate the extraordinary challenge the Chancellor was faced with when creating a scheme of this size, however he has proven himself that there is still time and capacity to make much needed amendments to support those who need it. He has been silent on this matter for too long, and our concern for the future has become our unavoidable reality. The devastating impact of this issue is hitting the households of over a million families right now.”
Both the open letter and the Early Days Motion call for an alteration of how new starters qualify for the scheme—namely, removing the cut-off date of 19 March and instead allowing new starters to submit proof of employment to guarantee eligibility for furlough. “Our members may be in a variety of different situations, yet we all have something in common: contractual proof of employment”, the letter stated. “We have offer letters. We have tax records. Our past and present details and contributions are logged on HMRC systems. The evidence is available and so clearly displays that a solution that works for all is achievable”. Similarly, the EDM “recognises the Government’s aim to combat fraudulent claims through use of a cut-off date, but suggests other methods of doing so, such as submission of employment contracts.”
As of the morning of April 27, the open letter had 4,205 signatures, with a range of MPs adding their names and putting weight behind the cause. Zara Sultana, MP for Coventry South, joined the call for justice for new starters, saying “no worker should be left behind through this crisis”, while Apsana Begum, MP for Poplar and Limehouse, tweeted that she “fully supported” the letter and acknowledged that there had been “weeks spent campaigning” for the cause.
Also signing were Kate Osborne, MP for Jarrow, and Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester. Osborne stated: “too many people are being left behind and the government needs to act”. Burnham called the letter “powerful” and said that he “fully supported the call” of New Starter Justice for an amended job retention scheme.
Other signatories include John Mcdonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington, Fleur Anderson, MP for Putney, Helen Mary Jones of Plaid Cymru, Mike Amesbury, Shadow Minister for Housing and Planning and Paul Dennett, Mayor of Salford. Presenter Jeremy Vine and MP Rushanara Ali also tweeted their support for the campaign.
New Starter Justice estimates that more than a million new starters have been excluded by the March 19 cut-off date to the furlough scheme, with 350,000-500,000 excluded workers within the hospitality sector alone. Other heavily affected sectors include construction, retail and travel & tourism.
Natalie Greenway continued: “The members of New Starter Justice are skilled, experienced and committed workers who have found themselves unemployed and unsupported for the first time in their working lives. These people deserve fair treatment from the government, and we will continue to fight until the this is achieved.”
New Starter Justice is campaigning for anyone who slipped through the cracks of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and consists of around 8,000 active members. The campaign has been covered on Channel 4 News, The Martin Lewis Money Show and BBC Money Box, as well as in the national press including the BBC and the Times. Anyone who has been affected or wants to support the campaign can get in touch via Facebook or Twitter.
The open letter and video can be found here, and supporters are strongly encouraged to sign using the link. Online media outlets please feel free to embed the video.
A wide variety of case studies are available upon request, including individual stories from specific areas and sectors. Please get in touch for more information.
New Starter Justice estimates that between 1.5 million and 2.3 million people are affected by the loophole in the CJRS. It reached this estimate via internal polls of members and using existing data which indicates that between 350,000 and 500,000 hospitality workers are excluded from the scheme.
Further information, interviews, comment and case studies are available on request. Please contact Natalie Greenway on 07519728072 or Becky Kells on 07306199422, or email firstname.lastname@example.org