The pay freeze for key workers is a bitter pill to swallow
The government’s plans are deeply unfair to key workers who’ve put themselves on the line throughout the pandemic. People we rely on everyday have been told to pay for a crisis they did not cause and have risked their lives to address.
All key workers need and deserve a pay rise.
Not just the NHS workers - that even the government admit have earned one.
But reports today reveal ministers intend to freeze the pay – which amounts to a pay cut, due to inflation - of a whole range of key workers.
This means no pay rise for the care workers who’ve been caring for some of the most vulnerable and putting themselves at risk to do so. If they’re employed by the local authority, they’ll see their pay frozen directly, and if they’re not, they’re likely to see pay decline in real terms - as their ability to bargain is undermined.
It means a freeze for the refuse workers who’ve been keeping our streets clear, often in conditions that don’t allow for proper distancing from their colleagues, putting themselves and their families at risk for as little as £17,800 a year.
It means the teaching assistants - on a similar wage - will see their earnings fall in real terms. Staff who’ve turned up every day supporting schools that don’t just educate our kids, but allow parents to return to work - boosting the whole economy.
The freeze affects the local government public health teams who have been working hard to plug the gaps in Serco’s shambolic track and trace system.
These teams go out to find people who have tested positive for Covid but who the central system has failed to contact - people who are often older and isolated.
The teams don’t only enquire about their health, they put them in touch with a range of services that can help them to socially distance, to access food and medical supplies, financial assistance and even dog walking that they may struggle to access otherwise.
The freeze will affect the benefits advisors dealing with more than 3 million extra claims for universal credit. It will affect the staff at revenue and customs. Staff who are often working on or around minimum wage while ensuring that schemes like the Job Retention Scheme can be rolled out and protect the livelihood of millions.
It’s a pay freeze for the firefighters who put their lives at risk in normal times. During the crisis they agreed to take on a whole range of additional responsibilities: driving ambulances, delivering PPE, delivering food supplies to vulnerable people, training additional staff to drive emergency vehicles and taking non-COVID-19 patients to and from Nightingale hospitals.
And these are only some of the key workers who will be affected. This year, staff in local government and the civil service have been responsible for quietly running in the most difficult of circumstances the services we all rely on - or have been transferred onto the pandemic response.
Key workers deserve more than just applause and warm words. And they certainly deserve better than a pay freeze.
Let’s hope the Chancellor recognises that.
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