Thursday, September 21, 2023

Union Usdaw set to campaign over cost of living crisis

RETAIL trade union Usdaw is this weekend campaigning at street stalls across the country calling for the Government to take action to tackle the Tory cost of living crisis.

Usdaw has published statistics from their cost of living survey of over 5,500 retail staff, mainly low-paid key workers who deliver essential services which show that:

  • Petrol prices and travel costs impact the ability to get to work for nearly 50% of respondents.
  • 7 in 10 have relied on insecure borrowing and 60% of these are struggling with repayments.
  • 1 in 4 are missing meals every month to be able to pay their bills, this has increased from 1 in 20 last year.
  • Nearly three-quarters report their mental health is being impacted as a result of financial worries.

Usdaw will be on the streets campaigning in Bedford town centre.

East of England voices from the cost of living crisis frontline: These are some of the comments East of England workers shared when responding to Usdaw’s survey:

  • “I tend to only have two meals a day now as I can’t afford to keep enough food in the house and I need to prioritise having food in when I have my children at weekends. If fuel prices rise much more I will have to start walking the 8 miles I travel to work along country lanes with no footpaths.” Retail worker, 34
  • “This is the first time in my working life I have ever worried about paying bills and food cost. I have already cut back on any service I use that are not necessary eg hairdressers and window cleaning. And moved to store branded food. Next will be heating and food.” Retail worker, 58
  • “We need to use credit cards for unexpected expenses now. We also need to delay getting the boiler fixed and gone without hot water for about three weeks to ensure we have enough for the repair. I have not had a credit card for about 15+ years before this year.” Retail worker, 40
  • “I live on my own. Bills are so high. Have no one to help.”  Retail worker, 59
  • “We are not sure how much longer we can manage to pay bills and keep putting food on the table, I’m really worried about the rising costs forecasted later in the year as we are struggling now and falling further into debt.” Retail worker, 59

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “It is heart-breaking to hear these testimonies from East of England workers who are in the main key workers that we rely on for essential services. Usdaw’s recent cost of living survey of over 5,500 lays bare the struggle low-paid workers are experiencing just to make ends meet.

“Many respondents talked of how increased fuel prices were leading them to cut down on shifts, to ask for a transfer to a store closer to home or even to consider leaving work altogether. Worryingly, cutting down on food and skipping meals was also a common theme, as well as taking steps to reduce non-work related travel to save on fuel costs, such as visiting family or pursuing leisure activities.

“These are the very real experiences of essential workers who were clapped during the pandemic and now seem to be forgotten. The Government has offered only sticking plasters that go nowhere near covering rising prices and bills, so there needs to be significant increases in minimum wage rates and fundamental reforms to end insecure work.

“Usdaw is calling for a new deal for workers, with minimum wage rates of at least £12 per hour as a step towards £15 for all workers. The pandemic clearly demonstrated just how reliant the country is on the lowest paid workers, so if we are to truly ‘build back better’ surely these essential workers deserve the dignity of decent pay.”

Usdaw’s New Deal for Workers calls for:

·      Minimum wage of at least £12 per hour as a step towards £15 for all workers, ending rip-off youth rates.

·      Minimum contract of 16 hours per week, for everyone who wants it, that reflects normal hours worked and a ban on zero-hour contracts.

·      Better sick pay for all workers, from day one, at average earnings.

·      Protection at work, respect for shopworkers, abuse is not a part of the job.

·      Proper social security system, Universal Credit does not provide an effective safety net.

·      Job security, with day one employment rights for unfair dismissal and significant improvements to redundancy protections.

·      Fair treatment and equality for all workers, including equal pay.

·      Voice at work, stop rogue employers refusing to engage with trade unions and end ‘fire and rehire’.


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