Shop workers join the TUC's ad van in Birmingham
Britain Still Needs A Pay Rise
Over the past week, the TUC has been out across the country with one simple message – Britain Still Needs A Pay Rise. We’ve been driving around constituencies and stopping in town centres to talk to the wider public. This is a big election issue; what will politicians do for those whose pay has not kept up with rising prices?
Across the UK, workers are over £1,200 a year worse off since 2008, once inflation has been taken into account. There has been a huge rise in insecure work. Many feel undervalued, unappreciated and unable to get by. It hasn’t been easy for some proud workers to admit that they can’t make ends meet. Others they told us how they don’t want to carry on in the job they currently do. Whilst visiting different places, I heard from people with different accents, but a common concern; that something needs to change.
Change is needed and wanted
The statistics speak for themselves. Yet they don’t tell the full story for workers. What struck me, and not for the first time, was the joy and purpose many had as part of their work. People told of loving their job, of seeing it as important, of knowing it was something good for them and those they served. But they did not feel appreciated. That employers and government hadn’t done enough to put money in their pockets as a fair reward for the work they do.
On our first day In Wolverhampton I spoke with Christopher, a local NHS worker. He has worked for the health service for 19 years, progressing over the years to his current role as a Theatre Technician. Now though, he has had enough. He is looking for another job. The holding down of pay in the public sector has had an effect. He now wants to see what else there is out there, that might help make ends meet. Not anger, or fury. Genuine disappointment. And I felt that too – all that training, experience and passion for his job that we would lose when it could so easily be retained.
This disappointment and frustration was to be a regular theme in our stops. Local care workers feeling like too much is asked of them and the work they do isn’t recognised. Teachers in the North East who no longer feel like it is the vocation they once experienced. Librarians in the North West who are wanting to provide a service but are being asked to do more and more with less resource whilst pay is cut. Council workers in Yorkshire who want local workers to get a pay rise. Not only for themselves, but for the local economy. Workers being paid a bit more who will then spend that in shops and local businesses.
These are some of the stories of the past week. And it is why we will continue post-election to campaign and call for the pay rise that they deserve.
Yet for many we spoke to, the question came back to not only the need for change but what can change and who might do that.
Not just ‘what must change’, but ‘will things ever change’?
There was also a worrying sense of despair and hopelessness. Many would pass our van and shout ‘I need a pay rise’. When we spoke to them it was clear why – rising bills and costs, with a stagnant wage packet. But there were feelings that people didn’t believe anything would change. It wasn’t a ‘they’re all the same’ directed at politicians. But more a sense that those in charge just don’t understand what it is like to be a low paid worker in Britain today. It’s why whatever the outcome tomorrow, politicians need to tackle this with action.
For some people, they just carried on. Paul, who we spoke to on the Wirral tells of having humour to do his job. This despite his pay actually being less in 2017 than it was in 2010, in the same job. He wasn’t the only one. I was amazed and grateful for the public servants who I spoke to who carry on doing their job with great pride, despite the frustrations. The local shop workers who go to work and put a smile on their face despite the challenges they face.
The workers I met deserve a better deal. And we want to make sure they get a better deal.
Britain Still Needs A Pay Rise
The TUC is calling on the next government to:
- Increase the minimum wage to £10 per hour as soon as possible
- Stop holding down pay for nurses, firefighters and other public servants
- Make it easier for unions to go into workplaces so that they can help win better pay
- Invest in the industries we need to provide good jobs at better pay rates