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Britain PM resists calls to extend worker wages

Coronavirus Pandemic

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street in London, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. The Prime Minister will attend the first session of Prime Ministers Questions since parliament returned Tuesday after the summer break. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
By The Associated Press undefined

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is resisting calls to extend a government program that has paid the wages of millions of workers laid off during the coronavirus lockdown.

Since April, the government has paid 80% of the salaries of furloughed employees. The program has supported almost 10 million workers but is due to end on Oct. 31.

Opposition parties have called for its extention. Scottish National Party lawmaker Ian Blackford says failing to do so would bring “levels of unemployment last seen under (Prime Minister Margaret) Thatcher in the early 1980s.”

Answering questions in the House of Commons, Johnson says the government had spent 40 billion pounds ($53 billion) on the program but continuing it indefinitely would keep workers “in suspended animation.”

Johnson says, “indefinite furlough is just not the answer.” He says the government was helping people with other programs, including a “Kickstart scheme” that will subsidize companies to hire young people.