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Low-paid workers fear another jump in inflation says Usdaw

Date: 21 June 2022 Retail trade union Usdaw has, ahead of tomorrow’s latest inflation figures, released results from their cost of living survey. They show that low-paid workers, many of them delivering essential services, are already struggling to make ends meet and fear further jumps in inflation.
The Office for National Statistics will publish the latest inflation figures on Wednesday 22 June, having last month found that prices had risen faster than at any time in the last 40 years. Usdaw’s survey of over 5,500 members, conducted last week, found 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. 
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “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. The vast majority of respondents are key workers delivering essential services in food supply industries. Unsurprisingly, the impact of rising costs and stagnating wages is seriously impacting mental health.
“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.”
Voices from the frontline of the cost of living crisis, some of the comments we received from our survey:
  • “Additional fuel costs mean that I have to walk. This is not ideal after a long shift on my feet. Also not ideal in bad weather and it certainly will be awful in the dark cold winter evenings.”
  • “I've had to get loans just to pay for food and fuel. I don’t know how I’m gonna pay it back.”
  • “Due to the rising costs I’m now having to miss meals to ensure my family can eat and I can work. This is very dangerous for me as I’m type 1 diabetic now having to live off Dextro tablets at times.”
  • “I’ve never suffered with mental health but recently all these extra expenses are making me worry daily. I don’t know how much longer I can keep above it. I feel like I’m starting to drown.”
  • “I haven't slept well for months and I'm afraid of failing as a mother.”
  • “I feel I can't go anywhere other than work because of fuel. I have an elderly parent that I only get to see once a week because she isn't local to me.” 
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’. 
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with around 360,000 members. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemical industry and other trades.
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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