A UNISON survey of 1,700 local government and school support workers has painted a picture of a demoralised workforce that feels locked out of the so-called economic recovery. The results reflect the growing anger of members who walked out last month over yet another below inflation (1%) pay offer. More than 600,000 UNISON members are set to strike again in the autumn, unless a solution can be found to break the deadlock over pay.
Pay freezes in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and below inflation rises in eight of the last seventeen years, has seen pay for some local government and school workers returning to the level of the 1990s. The impact on members’ finances shows up sharply in the survey results, with 96% saying they have been forced to cut back on the amount they spend on household items over the past year.
85% have slashed the amount they spend on general living costs, 75% are spending less on their food shopping, while 59% are turning off or down heating to cut back on the amount they spend on energy costs.
95% believe the so-called economic recovery is mainly - or only - benefiting people who are already well-off.
UNISON Head of Local Government, Heather Wakefield, said:
“Local government and school supporters are locked out of the so-called economic recovery. Their living standards and social lives are being slashed and their ability to engage fully in society is being undermined. This is bad not only for staff but for the millions of people, including children and the elderly, who rely on their services every day.
“Our members have borne the brunt of the government’s austerity agenda through massive cuts to council budgets and an 18% cut in their pay. If the economy really is improving, then workers who keep our vital local services and schools running should get a decent pay offer this year.
“Another above-inflation hike on rail travel this week will continue to squeeze many household budgets to bursting point. It is about time the employers got back round the negotiating table with a fair offer to avoid the prospect of further strike action.”
36% of those surveyed said they are struggling to make ends meet. 60% admitted that their debts have increased over the past year, with 7% revealing they are experiencing serious financial problems.
Stress levels are running high, with 70% saying that stress at work is affecting both their job performance and their personal lives.
The survey also found that 56% of workers have not been able to afford to take a holiday over the past year.