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UNITE VIEWPOINT TOO TIGHT TO MENTION...


Hello Again. As always, I’m hoping that I find you keeping well and bearing up, all things considered.


With all of the recent changes within the Covid ‘measures’;


this month I thought we’d take a look at the dire financial plight that most trade mem- bers up and down the nation still find themselves in – through no fault of their own, I might add!


I’ve now had an opportunity to properly digest the contents of the reduced level of financial support and the newly added restrictions on entitlement, for the Self- Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) extension.


It’s perhaps worth noting at the start of this, that most other businesses have been sub- ject to sector specific financial easings and extra grants. In some cases, these businesses have received more than one type of extra financial grant in addition to the Job Reten- tion Scheme (JRS), which was seamlessly replaced by the Job Support Scheme (JSS) on November 1st.


Conversely, the SEISS ceased in August and doesn’t resume until November, with no firm date for its restart at the time of writing.


Here’s the first gaping disparity in the Gov- ernment support. The JRS/JSS support schemes for employees have provided finan- cial assistance to employees continuously from March onwards. Whereas, the self- employed have gone for long periods with no assistance as it was paid retrospectively in two payments, three months apart. During September and October, they received no assistance at all – unlike ‘employees’!


Here’s the reality...


As already said, many companies, employers and employees have received more than one financial assistance grant. In some cases they have been given three or four different types of assistance. A fair few companies have actually made a lot of money out of the Gov- ernment’s grants – except of course the self-employed and specifically the cab trade, who seem to have been treated by the Gov- ernment as pariahs!


A lot of public money has clearly been wasted and mis-spent by the Government in non targeted assistance with some peo-


72


clearly neither practical nor achievable in a saloon car taxi, therefore their workplace is not ‘Covid secure’, and sadly never will be!


Where drivers have taken a decision to try to work, the return has been a pittance.


ple receiving lots of support and others receiving little or none!


The new level of 20% for the SEISS is both disproportionately low and derisory, if not bordering on an insult. In most cases it won’t even allow a self-employed individual to live (i.e. put food on the table), let alone to pay recurring and accruing overheads – these have never been accounted for within the self-employed assistance.


The level of support to be received by employ- ees will be two thirds of their normal “take home” pay. Yet the self-employed will only receive 20% or just one fifth (in old money) of their ‘average monthly trading profits’. But here’s the thing, isn’t a fifth roughly a third of two thirds i.e. MUCH LOWER?? Where is the parity in the support? Might I be so bold as to suggest that this disparity is grossly unfair by anyone’s measure?


Perhaps the most pernicious part of the extension of the SEISS is the newly added restrictions on entitlement. These state that a claimant must, ‘...declare that they are cur- rently actively trading...’


By the Government’s new rules, a consider- able amount of trade members are now entitled to nothing i.e. no assistance at all!


Many members (including myself) currently cannot trade, due to either being in the ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’ group them- selves or residing (as I do) with a person who is. So, they cannot safely return to work in a non ‘Covid secure’ environment, such as a saloon car cab. This is merely following the Government’s own advice!


As the restrictions on shielding were lifted on August 1st, those exiting shielding were encouraged to return to work, if and only if, their workplace is (in Matt Hancock’s words) a ‘Covid secure environment’. The Govern- ment regulations on social distancing and separation are 2m as the norm or a minimum of 1m with extra mitigatory measures. This is


Estimates (and these are extremely conser- vative estimates) suggest that the current Coronavirus global pandemic is costing the UK taxi trade some £85m per week with an estimated 80% – 95% reduction in trade.


With the current national exponential increase in infections and the further mea- sures introduced recently by the Prime Minister, the taxi trades’ plight is liable to get worse rather than to improve in the short to medium term. Therefore it runs quite obvi- ously that the self-employed require additional assistance.


Most trade members are not entitled to Uni- versal Credit, due to its draconian means testing. Would it be churlish to point out that the level of support offered and delivered by the Government has been at best, woefully inadequate. I did raise my eyebrows (that’s the polite form) when I found out that the Government has given assistance to fox hunts. Now am I living in some parallel uni- verse here, when I question how the Government can abandon the cab trade, yet choose to keep fox hunts running?


The bottom line is: our jobs ARE both viable and sustainable, but we cannot survive on the current levels of work or income – where is our support?


In the meantime, my advice is for you and other trade members to contact your local MP, setting out the lack of assistance and the dire nature of your/our plight and asking them to raise this in Parliament.


Oh by the way, didn’t MPs get a pay rise recently, when many people are facing redundancy or destitution? Funny that there was enough money for that...!? QED


Cue the music, ‘Help’ by The Beatles... Drive carefully and above all, stay well...


Article supplied by: Sean Ridley Secretary Unite the Union South East Region (Cab Section) Sean.Ridley@unitetheunion.org


NOVEMBER 2020


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