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On May Day, let’s thank our key workers – and win them better pay and security

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The workers who’ve kept the country running through the coronavirus crisis are too often underpaid, insecure and ignored. Let’s use this May Day to change that.

On May Day, the trade union movement across the world comes together to celebrate the contribution working people make to society and commit to delivering them a better deal at work.

This year’s coronavirus pandemic has exposed just how badly they need one.

It’s the underpaid, undervalued and ignored workers who have kept this country going. The care workers keeping elderly residents safe while putting their own health at risk. The postal workers and engineers keeping us connected with our family and friends. The shopworkers calmly restocking the shelves so we have enough food. And the workers across the public sector battling the virus, keeping our kids educated and our vital services running.

The price of austerity

Our analysis estimates that 3.7 million of these key workers earn less than £10 an hour. Many more face insecure conditions at work – including a quarter of care workers on zero-hours contracts.

The public sector pay freeze put in place by the coalition government means far too many have seen huge losses to their real terms pay (the value of their pay once inflation has been taken into account).

Average pay across the public sector is £900 lower today than it was in 2010. Ambulance drivers earn over £1,600 less in real terms, and some nurses have seen their real terms pay fall by over £3,000.

That’s the price of over a decade of austerity.

Five changes workers need now

The low pay and insecurity these workers face have been ignored for too long. It’s no surprise that these are mostly working-class jobs, done disproportionately by women and Black workers. 

That’s why this May Day – the day we recognise the contribution workers make to society – we’re committing to fight for a new deal for working people.

We’ve set out five things the government should do to improve terms and conditions for these workers right now:

1. Increase the minimum wage to £10 for everyone now.

2. Deliver fair pay rises for our key workers and rewards for workers across the economy that restore what they've lost through ten years of cuts and slow growth

3. Ban zero hours contracts and stamp out false self-employment

4. Increase sick pay to the real living wage and make sure everyone can get it from day one.

5. Bring outsourced workers like cleaners in the NHS back into the public sector on public sector terms and conditions.

And this is just the start of the change we need to deliver a new deal across the economy.

A new deal for workers

We know that for many of these workers their top priority now will be safety at work .

But we must act fast to recognise the contribution these workers have made, and give them the pay, respect and conditions they deserve.

Everyone deserves a pay rise whether they work in the public or private sector. And everyone deserves decent sick pay so they don’t have to worry about getting ill.

False self-employment also deprives people of the right to get sick pay (a major problem during a pandemic), as well as the right to annual leave or the minimum wage.

Zero hours contracts mean working people can’t predict when they will work or what they will earn week to week.

These forms of insecure work disproportionately affect the delivery drivers, carers and retail workers we’re depending upon in this crisis.

Other key workers, like hospital porters, cleaners and security staff, have been shifted out of the NHS and outsourced to private service companies. This has led to falling pay and the loss of NHS terms and conditions for many.

So it’s only right to thank these workers by bringing them back into the NHS family as employees of our national health service.

Time for real change

On May Day, we remember the victories working people have won in the past.

The minimum wage, the first sick pay, the eight-hour day, the weekend, paid holiday and parental leave, protection from discrimination, equal pay and safer workplaces.

But we also commit to winning better pay, terms and jobs for workers today.

Of course the workers who’ve kept the country running through the coronavirus crisis deserve our thanks. But they also deserve a proper pay rise, better conditions and our respect.

So this May Day, let’s deliver that new deal for working people.

Key workers

This May Day (Friday 1 May), show your appreciation for all those key workers that are looking after us in these difficult times. Get on social media and thank a worker who’s made a difference to you. It could be your postie, shop worker, someone in the NHS, delivery driver, food worker or any other frontline worker. The very least we can do is #ThankAWorker. Find out more

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