UK Unions: Key Workers and Public Services Need More Support
The government has been urged by union leaders to continue supporting public services and key workers in order to avoid mass unemployment in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
Unison, along with Trades Union Congress (TUC), are poised to launch campaigns in tandem on Monday. Their campaigns will call on ministers to increase public service spending, and to stand by working families in these economically tough times.
The unions warned the government that if next year’s planned increase in the minimum wage did not go through, key workers would suffer.
Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, will address the TUC’s 152nd Congress in London via a virtual speech. In her speech she will urge chancellor Rishi Sunak to raise the minimum wage, as well as to keep supporting the job retention scheme (JRS).
“Unions pushed for the job retention scheme. Millions of livelihoods were saved – both employees and the self-employed,” O’Grady will say.
“If the government doesn’t act, we face a tsunami of job losses. So my message to the chancellor is this: we worked together once before. We are ready to work with you again – if you are serious about stopping the catastrophe of mass unemployment.
“Rishi Sunak: stand by working families – don’t walk away.”
An increase in the minimum wage, planned for April 2021, will benefit 2.1 million key workers according to analysis published by the TUC.
The union says that scrapping the rise would fly in the face of the hard work and dedication the workers have shown during the pandemic.
“Coronavirus is no leveller,” O’Grady said. “It has exposed huge inequality in modern Britain. Hard work should pay for everyone, no matter who you are or what kind of job you do. Yet, many of those who kept this country going through the crisis don’t get the respect they deserve.
“They do valuable, skilled work. But they are short-changed. The minimum wage – the wage of 2 million key workers – must rise as planned. Ministers: don’t punch down.”
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: “Everyone is desperate to get back to normal. However, ‘normal’ cannot mean a return to low pay, penny-pinching and public services staff being undervalued.
“For too long, this has been the reality for those providing vital amenities including health and social care, policing, education and local government. The government must invest properly in public services and respect workers by paying them fairly and keeping them safe. It must reverse a decade of neglect.”