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Three-quarters of low-paid key workers feel worse off than last year - an Usdaw survey finds

Date: 15 February 2022 Ahead of what is expected to be yet another high inflation figure tomorrow (Wednesday), retail trade union Usdaw has released findings from their cost of living survey showing that 77% of members feel financially worse off than last year.
Usdaw’s survey of almost 6,500 members, conducted at the beginning of February, also found that:
  • 75% have struggled to pay gas and electricity bills.
  • Two-thirds are relying on borrowing to pay everyday bills, with half of them now struggling with repayments.
  • Almost three-quarters report that financial issues are affecting their mental health. 
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “Too many low-paid key workers, who kept the country going during the pandemic, are coming out of the crisis feeling much worse off. The Government’s promise to ‘build back better’ rings hollow now, with prices increasing and wages not keeping pace with inflation.
 
“The Government must provide substantial support for these working households, who are already struggling to make ends meet. Surely ministers cannot fail to be moved by the evidence from our survey showing that 77% are worse off than last year, two-thirds are forced to borrow to pay bills and half of them are struggling with repayments.
 
“This cost of living crisis is also a mental health crisis. Our members have worked throughout the pandemic and they were applauded as key workers, but claps do not pay the bills. With prices rocketing and wages barely growing, it is inevitable that stress, anxiety and mental health concerns are increasing. Our survey shows that low-paid working people desperately need substantial Government action to help them through the cost of living crisis.”
 
Usdaw is calling on the Government to help workers through the cost of living crisis by:
  • Scrapping the 10% National Insurance increase due in April.
  • Increasing financial support for those facing fuel poverty, funded by a windfall tax on highly profitable energy companies.
  • Developing a proper social security system, Universal Credit does not provide a safety net.
  • Immediately increase the minimum wage to at least £10 and scrap unfair youth rates. 
Voices of key workers on the frontline of the cost of living crisis:
 
Retail Worker, North East: “Losing sleep, conscious that our life savings are now below £1K, despite spending only on very bare essentials, and this is before the energy prices have increased.”
 
Retail worker, South West: “It’s always been a struggle to get by but somehow we manage by cutting back. With cost of living nowadays I am not sure how we are going to be able to do this. I have a child and work to provide for us but her needs come first and cutting back on my own to be able to accommodate this could be  a challenge in the future if prices go up again just for the basic necessities. The cost of living is uncertain and a worry for workers on low wages.”
 
Retail worker, Wales: “My rent increased £55 last November and my utility bill has gone up £40 per month since my supplier stopped trading last September. This is before you take into account rising fuel and food prices.”
 
Retail worker, Midlands: “Financial struggles have been impacting my mental health tremendously and also been impacting my performance at work. With food prices, energy bills and national insurance on the rise, I find it worrying that someone in a management position is still living pay cheque to pay cheque.”
 
Warehouse worker, Scotland: “After gas, electricity and food prices going through the roof I feel I’m always struggling. I cannot make my money last for the month and I can barely heat my home.”
 
Retail worker, North West: “Combination of soaring costs on energy and food are only going to make the poor struggle to make ends meet. Throw in the national insurance hike and petrol/diesel prices remaining high, what little wage rises we will get will make us all so much worse off. People who were classed as ‘keyworkers’ will, as usual, suffer the most.”
 
Retail worker, South East: “Everything’s just getting out of control with the prices increasing.  This time last year I could do a weekly shop for £68 for two people.  Now I’m looking at £98 for the same shop.”
 
Retail worker, Northern Ireland: “My husband works full time and I work part time - our circumstances around childcare don’t allow us to do any more than what we’re doing and we can afford to simply live, just live, bills are always paid, we make saving anything extra a priority for Christmas for the kids, but it leaves nothing else. If prices continue to rise for essentials, it could get tough.”
 
Notes for editors:
 
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 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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