UK events industry warns of 90,000 COVID job losses

FILE PHOTO: A view of an empty street, as new restrictions are implemented for bars

FILE PHOTO: A view of an empty street, as new restrictions are implemented for bars and restaurants to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in London, Britain, September 24, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s events industry warned Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday that more than 90,000 people in the exhibitions sector would be made redundant in the coming weeks unless he offered more support to replace a government job furlough scheme.

Under rules designed to stop a resurgence of COVID infections, people in Britain are generally not allowed to meet in groups of more than six, making traditional conferences, concerts and other large events impossible to organise.

Until now, many jobs in the sector have been supported by a government programme that paid up to 80% of staff wages, but that comes to an end this month.

The Events Industry Alliance, an umbrella group for trade bodies, said its members could not afford to use a new scheme, which offers a smaller amount of government support to businesses that bring workers back on reduced hours.

“Over 90,000 people will be made redundant in the coming weeks due to continued event closures and the inability of their employers to access the new Job Support Scheme as they are not able to trade at all,” the group wrote in a letter to Johnson and finance minister Rishi Sunak.

Sunak said last week the government would only support “viable” jobs from next month onwards, which in practice means those where employers are able to pay staff just over half their normal wages, and recognised there would be job losses to come.

The trade body asked Sunak to provide wage support to the sector that recognised government rules meant it – unlike most other parts of the economy – was likely to remain in lockdown for another six months.

It also requested a clearer process for assessing when events would be allowed to resume.

“We are not an unviable sector and simply require support to survive until the time is right to resume events,” it said.

Reporting by David Milliken; editing by Stephen Addison

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