The chancellor must use tomorrow’s spring statement to signal a significant rise in public sector workers’ pay or essential services across the UK could come to a standstill, says UNISON today (Tuesday).
With millions struggling to pay bills and afford the basics, there’s a real danger that staff working in the NHS, care, schools, police forces and councils will look for work elsewhere, leaving vital services unable to cope, the union says.
UNISON has written to Rishi Sunak calling for Wednesday’s spending announcements to include proper investment in public sector pay after years of freezes or minimal rises before it’s too late and irreversible damage is done.
Unless they receive competitive wages, experienced staff won’t stay working for vital services and new recruits won’t be interested in joining, says the union.
The letter says: “Quality public services can’t run themselves. Increasing pay for people working in public services will help solve the cost-of-living crisis, along with measures to tackle rising bills and protect the value of benefits across the wider economy.”
UNISON also urges the chancellor of the exchequer to put tackling the cost-of-living crisis at the heart of his statement.
The union outlines a series of important measures to help those who can least afford the spiralling cost of living, with food, heating and fuel prices ratcheting up. They include:
- Raising the national minimum wage to at least £10-an-hour to protect the lowest paid from the worst of the crisis.
- A windfall tax on energy companies to reduce bills and a more affordable price cap.
- Scrapping the national insurance increase and finding better ways to raise the funding for the NHS and social care.
- Restoring the £20-a-week uplift to universal credit and extending to other means-tested benefits.
- Increasing HMRC mileage rates to reflect increased fuel costs so the public service workforce, from community health workers to carestaff, aren’t out of pocket for using their cars to do their jobs.
UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Rising prices are wreaking havoc on the finances of working people. The government can’t just sit idly by.
“What’s needed from the chancellor is funding for an above-inflation pay rise across the entire public sector.
“Health, care, council, police, energy and education services were key to seeing us through the pandemic.
“They remain every bit as essential to the recovery and beyond, and that’s why their pay matters so much.
“Any wage increase that fails to match spiralling prices amounts to a pay cut. And with prices heading skywards, essential workers won’t hang around if they don’t get a decent salary boost.
“The NHS, care and other key services already have too few staff. If many more walk because a decent pay rise isn’t forthcoming, there won’t be the support for those in need.
“Patients will wait longer, older people won’t get the care they need, crime rates will soar, and classes will get bigger. If that happens, everyone loses.”
Notes to editors:
– The full text of the letter to the chancellor is here.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.