Blog: Fair pay for low-paid workers

Pay for some of the country’s lowest-paid workers increases from today, but for many key workers a decent wage for an essential job is still a dream

Today, on 1 April, some of you will be getting a pay rise.

But don’t be fooled – for some UNISON members working for outsourced contractors or private companies, any modest increase in your pay is not from an employer who is choosing to pay staff decent wages that they can afford to live on.

It may well be because the rate of pay you receive from your employer is the national living wage rate – previously known at the national minimum wage, and the lowest rate of pay across the UK – or the real living wage. The rates for both are going up from today.

If your employer has registered with the Living Wage Foundation, they may be choosing to implement the increase to the real living wage of £9.50 per hour (£10.85 in London). And from today, the national living wage rises to £8.91 per hour – and your employer must give you an increase to comply with the law.

This will affect UNISON members such as cleaners, security and catering staff who have been outsourced to private contractors providing services in local government, schools, the NHS and higher education, and also many social care workers providing services commissioned by councils.

You may also be receiving a lower rate of pay than your colleagues doing the same job, because of your age.

While any extra money is welcome, UNISON believes that the national minimum wage policy needs to change to £10 an hour – with a single rate across all age groups.

All staff delivering public services – whatever they do and whoever they work for – deserve a decent pay rise, with enough money to live on.

Your pay should go up because of what you have done and the value of the role you do, and be negotiated with recognised trade unions, not because your employer is paying you the statutory minimum rates of pay and being forced by legislation to pay you more money. You deserve so much better.

Every single frontline member stepped up during the pandemic with outsourced workers on lower pay working alongside NHS, schools and local government staff, pulling together to deliver for patients, pupils and everyone’s community and their families.

The public supports you because, in their eyes, you are the staff who provide their public services key to our society – regardless of who your employer is.

UNISON believes that no one delivering public services should be on low wages. What UNISON members do is too important to be undervalued by low pay.

The public values you, UNISON values you and, rest assured, will continue working to ensure that both the government and your employer values you too.