Ploughing my own Furlough!

I, like millions of others, have been furloughed by my company due to the Coronavirus. This means under the Government’s terms that I receive 80% of my salary while I am unable to work due to the restrictions. At the end of the day it’s just about doable because the money I save on not having to commute to Newcastle every day is about the same as the drop in income so with a bit of scrimping and saving I’m doing ok for now.

The reason my company, which has been in business for the past 26 years, has had to furlough most of its staff is that we service the conference and events sector and as gatherings of people are banned all of our business has either been cancelled or postponed until September at the earliest (and even that is looking doubtful) so all of our income is currently on hold. The company managed to pay our wages for the first month but after that we had to sign a form to accept the new terms and conditions of furlough.

I think it’s important to stress that we are in this position not because of anything we did personally or that the company did wrong it is simply because the virus spreading around the world has made our business impossible in the short term. The last event we did was in Northern Ireland and as we were setting up during the day the client was getting phone call after phone call from guests to cancel. At one point it was touch and go wether the event would go ahead after us travelling out there and setting everything up!

I’ve worked in this industry since leaving University back in 1985 – so 35 years now with only one week where I wasn’t actually employed as I took a week out between leaving one job and starting the next. I worked for a company in London originally and then left to help set up a new company which I worked for for 25 years and now I work for a company in the North East and have done for the last 6 years during which time I have only been off sick for 1 day.

The reason I’m telling you all this is because I have been absolutely shocked over the past couple of days by the rhetoric coming from the Government regarding the scheme they set up a few weeks earlier under the banner “whatever it takes” There has been talk of people becoming “addicted to furlough money” (I mean how? I’ve only had one payment) and having to “ween us off the payments”! There was talk (which thankfully didn’t happen this week) about reducing the payments to encourage us to go back to work! At the end of the day I would happily go back to work BUT the work isn’t there at the moment! So talk of people not wanting to work is nonsense!

I spent yesterday despairing at the vitriol of some people on Facebook and Twitter towards those of us who have been furloughed. There were some common themes and I could have spent all day rebutting them…

Paying people to sit on their arses all day

Well I can’t work at the moment so what is the alternative – I become unemployed and er sit on my arse all day?

Why should my tax money subsidise people’s wages

Well it’s my tax money too – I’ve paid tax and National Insurance for 35 years and never claimed a thing so why can’t I claim on my “insurance” now? Also the alternative is 6m more people on the dole which, guess what, would come out of your taxes! And given that without the furlough scheme a lot of business would go under there would be a lot less vacancies for the newly unemployed so you would end up paying their benefits even longer than the furlough scheme

I wonder how many people would feel that way if it was the sector that they work in that was effected?

And my favourite – bloody lazy lefties just want to get paid for sitting on their arses

Well firstly as I said above I would love to be able to go back to work and will happily do so when the business picks up. Secondly I suspect a lot of people currently benefitting from the furlough scheme aren’t lefties at all and probably a significant number would have voted Conservative at the last election! Incidentally I have seen the same accusations thrown at school staff by the same vile people saying that teachers don’t want to go back because they just want even more paid holidays. This annoys me because firstly it was the schools that were closed before businesses for a reason. Secondly the staff have been going in to look after key workers kids and thirdly as a Teaching Assistant my wife doesn’t actually get paid for the holidays! They just want to know that they are going to be safe before they return – is that a crime?

Now don’t get me wrong I am very grateful to the Conservative Government (blimey did I just type that) for the furlough scheme and for everything they announced at the start of the crisis BUT why having put things in place to do “Whatever it takes” do they start, just a few weeks later, to try and claw it back making people like me feel guilty and stressed out in the process?

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