AS a trade union branch officer of the GMB I have never known a week like this one.

So many members have been laid off and so many members have concerns, particularly about self-isolation and sick pay.

The Government should have acted earlier but guaranteed pay for workers laid off due to a downturn in demand is welcome relief to millions of workers.

However, the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s announcements do not go far enough and there are several key concerns which need to be addressed as a matter of urgency:

  • Statutory Sick Pay set at only £94.25 per week will not discourage all workers with a temperature and/or a cough to stay at home. Of course, workers with such medical symptoms should stay at home, but they should not be financially penalised for doing so.
  • Child Benefit must be extended for bigger families. This is particularly important during the duration of the crisis as children will not be at school and school meals will not be provided.
  • The self-employed and those in the so-called gig economy who work zero hours contracts should be guaranteed a universal basic income, set at reasonable safety net level.

Furthermore, as the crisis progresses and essential workers such as those in health, care and emergency services are put under immense pressure, they should be provided with low cost hot meals, rest areas at work and help with shopping and other domestic tasks.

Finally, can I congratulate the media who at long last seem to have realised that it is these essential workers, many of whom are GMB members, who are the real backbone of the society.

It is essential workers rather than property speculators, PR consultants and advertising executives who save lives and keep society from going under.

We all need to remember this when the crisis comes to an end.

John Gilmore, GMB Branch Officer, Durham County (General) Branch, Bishop Auckland