Politians and union bosses have hit out at Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Job Retention Bonus scheme, with some claiming it does “little to nothing” to affect growing North Sea job losses.
Addressing Parliament today, Mr Sunak announced a financial windfall of £1,000 per worker for firms that bring back employees currently on furlough.
However, Aberdeen politicians and union representatives criticised the scheme, which they claim doesn’t “scratch the surface” of the problem of oil and gas firms cutting staff who they can no longer afford to keep on furlough.
Jake Molloy, RMT regional organiser for the offshore sector, said: “As the furlough scheme stands at the moment it costs a company about a grand a month to keep a worker on furlough, so I don’t see this bonus being an incentive for the offshore sector.
“The reality is that once the furlough and redundancy process has been started by oil and gas companies – which most of them have – I don’t see them going back on that now.
“Most companies know that as we get deeper into the year it’s only going to get worse as we pass the summer season and see what little projects are actually going ahead.
“I don’t see that this scratches the surface in any significant way, at all.”
Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn said the bonus would do very little to “protect jobs in the oil and gas industry”.
He described Mr Sunak’s refusal to set out measures for the industry as “shameful” and a “body blow that puts thousands of jobs at risk”, adding that the current Covid-19 furlough scheme “hadn’t stopped jobs being cut across the sector”.
Andrew Bowie, MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, responded by saying the UK’s furlough scheme had “saved an estimated 60,000 jobs in the north-east alone”.
He added: “Any suggestion that this unprecedented government intervention hasn’t helped protect our oil and gas industry is purely political.”
Oil and Gas UK’s chief executive, Deirdre Michie, said Mr Sunak’s announcement provides “welcome support” for oil and gas companies affected coronavirus pandemic.
She added: “The continued volatility facing our sector however underlines the need for long-term and targeted support.
“The UK now faces once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to realise an energy transition which delivers affordable energy, supports jobs and enables our industry to put our skills to work to help cut emissions.”