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Usdaw members speak out about the cost of living crisis, with 1 in 4 food retail workers skipping meals to pay bills

Date: 10 August 2022 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.
Voices from the cost of living crisis frontline: These are some of the comments workers shared when responding to Usdaw’s survey:
  • “My first hour’s wage now only just pays for my petrol for that day.”
  • “I’ve gone over my credit card limit to put food on the table and pay my bills.”
  • “I live alone and have no family to rely on, so feel really desperate, I have nobody to turn to for help.
  • “I'm cutting food for myself so I can at least feed my child and pay the bills.”
  • “Giving up on ever being able to afford a house or family”
  • “Too many threatening letters, I can't cope anymore, there is nothing left to pay them.”
  • “I have two jobs as one wouldn’t pay the bills. I work 7 days a week at the moment, I’ve got a stretch of 84 days before my next day off. It’s heart breaking.”
  • “Can't afford to live. I'm a single parent off sick with breast cancer.”
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “It is heart-breaking to hear these testimonies from 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’.
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.

Usdaw street stall locations: Marketplace in Loughborough; Bedford town centre;
Croydon town centre, opposite Primark; Black Pride, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London; Dovecote Street in Stockton; Market Street in Manchester; St John’s Market, Roe Street, Liverpool; George Street, Aberdeen; Kirkgate, Leith Walk, Edinburgh; Tesco Silverburn, Glasgow; Canterbury; Tesco Extra in Yate; Cheltenham High Street; Tesco, Transit Way, Plymouth; Swindon town centre; Oxford Street, Swansea; Merthyr Road, Cardiff; High Street, Erdington; Tyrrel Street/Ivegate, Bradford and South Yorkshire Festival at Wortley Hall in Sheffield.

For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers