Sunak’s ‘plan for jobs’ faces test with 10,000 posts at big name firms at risk
Almost 10,000 posts are at risk at household-name firms a day after Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out his “plan for jobs”.
In a sign of the tough times facing the high street as a result of the lockdown, John Lewis is to close eight stores, putting 1,300 workers at risk, Boots expects to cut more than 4,000 posts and Burger King’s UK boss signalled 1,600 jobs could go.
Engine maker Rolls-Royce has also been affected by the pandemic’s impact on civil aviation around the world and more than 3,000 British workers have applied for redundancy after the firm announced a round of job cuts.
Mr Sunak used his summer economic update on Tuesday to announce a £30 billion stimulus package, but he acknowledged that not all jobs could be saved.
“I’ve been very clear that we are not going to be able to protect every single job and it would be wrong of me to pretend otherwise,” he told Sky News.
“There are going to be difficult times ahead and … there are forecasts for people predicting significant levels of unemployment.
“That weighs very heavily on me.”
John Lewis will shut department stores in Birmingham and Watford, four At Home stores in Croydon, Newbury, Swindon and Tamworth, and travel sites in Heathrow and St Pancras.
Downing Street said the Government stands ready to support the firm’s partners who face.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing the Government would support workers facing redundancy in any way that it can.
“I understand this is part of the John Lewis and Partners restructuring which recognises that more people have switched from shopping in store to online,” he said.
“John Lewis Partnership has said that redundancies are always an absolute last resort and every effort would be made to find new roles where possible for those who wish to remain within the partnership such as transferring to local Waitrose shops or online operations.”
The cuts at pharmacist Boots will affect around 7% of the company’s workforce and will particularly affect staff in its Nottingham support office.
At Burger King, only about 370 of the restaurant chain’s 530 UK stores have reopened since the nation went into lockdown.
Chief executive Alasdair Murdoch told the BBC’s Newscast the economic damage stemming from the crisis could ultimately force the company to permanently close up to 10% of its stores.
“We don’t want to lose any (jobs),” he said.
“We try very hard not to, but one’s got to assume somewhere between 5% and 10% of the restaurants might not be able to survive.”
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “The Chancellor has said that sadly we won’t be able to protect every job but we have put in place a very substantial package which allows businesses to draw upon a range of financial support during this challenging time including loans, tax deferrals and cash grants.
“Anyone affected by job losses will also be able to access a wide range of support including Universal Credit and the new-style jobseeker’s allowance, as well as benefit from the measures announced yesterday by the Chancellor to get people back into work.”
The announcements are just the latest sign of the jobs crisis that has followed the lockdown.
In total, at least 150,000 jobs have been cut or put at risk at more than 60 major British employers during lockdown, according to analysis by the PA news agency.
So far nearly 17,000 potential job losses have been announced in July, compared to just over 14,000 at the same point in June.
Overall around 75,000 job losses were announced last month.
The list is just a collection of some of the biggest job cuts announced by large firms and is likely to have only captured a small part of the devastation to the UK economy.
The Office for National Statistics has already suggest that 600,000 UK workers lost their job in May alone, while vacancies slumped to a record low.