Thousands of workers have been losing their jobs in increasing numbers over the past year due to the effect of the credit crunch on businesses. There is concern that employers will step up redundancies in anticipation of a long, deep recession. The UK government is aiming to prevent the rise in unemployment becoming permanent. As a result, a jobs summit has been held this week in central London attended by 100 executives from some of the biggest companies in Britain, welfare providers, unions and employer organisations.

The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, said that the government would do everything to help those losing their jobs to find work again quickly or to get a new skill. He said: We cannot always prevent people losing the last job but we can help people get the next job. Because we are determined to prevent short-term unemployment leading to long-term unemployment with all its consequences and because we know that the risk of long-term unemployment increases as skills and confidence depreciates, we are setting out a new guarantee of intensive support for anyone still unemployed after six months. (The Times, 12 January 2009)

To try and reduce unemployment, the government has announced a series of measures including golden hellos worth up to £2,500 for employers to recruit and train the long-term unemployed, 75,000 training places for people out of work for six months and cash help for jobless people to set up businesses.  Ministers believe that in previous recessions action was not taken quickly enough to ensure that unemployment was temporary and as a result the downturns lasted longer and governments faced huge benefit bills. James Purnell, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said that the government has chosen to invest millions now rather than pay out billions in the future to those on benefits. (The Times, 12 January 2009)

At times of high job losses, the support of unions is vital to their membership. Issues at work include things like health and safety, working conditions and fair treatment. See The Times 100 case study on UNISON, the largest public services trade union in Britain with over 1.3 million members. In a workplace, it is not easy for every individual employee to discuss issues with management. This is why workers may need representation. A trade union provides representation, along with help and support.

The latest quarterly survey of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) announced that up to 15,000 jobs will be lost over the next three months in the financial services sector in Britain. In addition, it has been predicted that unemployment could reach over three million next year (The Times, 12 January 2009).

John Cridland, deputy director-general of the CBI , said: Our survey confirms that the financial services sector remains very troubled. Profitability has been falling in this sector for a whole year. It is not surprising that sentiment continues to be extremely fragile. (The Times, 12 January 2009)