Public service workers aren’t fooled by this April’s pay rise

Workers across the public sector are losing billions as employers fail to pay a decent wage

UNISON campaigning for a living wage graphic

The government has today increased its national living wage to £8.91 an hour – an increase that UNISON welcomes, but says is a far cry from what workers need to earn in order to get by and have a decent living standard.

According to the Living Wage Foundation, five years on from its introduction, national living wage earners have fallen a total of £10 billion short of what they would have earned if they had been paid the real living wage.

This includes millions of key workers, who have collectively earned £1.6 billion less than they would have if they had been paid at least the real living wage over the past year alone.

According to research published by the TUC, around one in three key workers (33%) earn less than £10 an hour, making it harder to pay bills and put food on the table.

UNISON members have played a crucial frontline role during the pandemic, yet many are being paid less than £10 an hour.

More than three in five carers (62% – 440,000) earn under £10 an hour. Analysis by Skills for Care for the Living Wage Foundation shows that, during 2019/20, nearly three-quarters (73%) of independent sector care workers in England were paid less than the real living wage.

Analysis by the Fawcett Society shows that eight-in-10 care workers are women, with Black and migrant women over-represented in the sector. Frontline care workers are also very likely to be parents or carers themselves – and three times more likely to be single parents than the workforce as a whole.

They’ve put their health on the line caring for others during this pandemic, often while earning less than they need to look after their own families.

Nearly seven in 10 teaching and education support assistants (69% – 340,000) are paid less than £10 an hour.

According to UNISON’s most recent freedom of information request, just over 6,000 higher education employees are paid below Living Wage Foundation rates. The five lowest pay points on the national pay spine (SCP3-7 inclusive) are all below the Living Wage Foundation rate of £9.50 per hour for those on a 37-hour per week contract.

UNISON believes that the goal for national minimum wage policy in the UK should be as follows:

  • raise the national minimum wage to the level of the UK living wage, which is announced annually by the Living Wage Foundation, and by doing so, rapidly close on a target of £10 an hour;
  • harmonise the national minimum wage rates into a single rate across all age groups.

General Secretary’s blog: Fair pay for low-paid workers