What Workers in Wales Want: 5 Priorities for the Next Senedd Term

Published date
Between December 2020 and April 2021 we worked with YouGov to talk to thousands of workers across Wales to better understand how they view their working lives, their experiences of the Covid crisis, and their priorities for the future of the country.

Ahead of this Thursday’s election, we’re publishing Securing a Fair Recovery – a short document setting out some of the most important findings.

Here are five things workers told us they want. Read the full findings in the attached paper. 

  1. A Stronger, Better Funded Public Sector and Pay Rises for Public Sector Workers

Alongside putting a stronger public sector as their top priority, there was particular recognition of the need to address the chronic underfunding of social care. 62% say that spending on social care has been below what has been needed in recent years – with only 13% saying that it has been about right or too much.

There is also strong support for pay rises across the board for the surveyed public sector professions. Nurses, care workers, hospital porters and cleaners garner particularly strong levels of public support.  

  1. Fairness at Work and a Stronger Voice for Workers in the Decisions that Affect Them.

The research shows clear support for pro-worker conditions being attached to any government funding for businesses in Wales. The Wales TUC has consistently argued that employers that benefit from government funding must be expected to allow trade unions access to their workforce and seek a trade union recognition agreement where workers request it. This position is backed by a ratio of more than 4 to 1.

There is also significant public support for banning one of the most blatant examples of one-sided flexibility – the zero-hour contract.  

Workers support the idea that government should work in partnership with employers and trade unions in developing and implementing policy. This approach – known as social partnership – is commonplace across Europe and helps to ensure that workers have a voice in decisions that affect them. 44% back this concept – with only 8% opposing it.

The survey also found that hundreds of thousands of the 1.5m workers in Wales have significant frustrations about their treatment in work. 29% say that they are not paid fairly, 21% say that management do not listen to their views, 28% say that their employer does not offer good development opportunities, and 30% say that decisions taken in their workplace are not explained to them.

36% say that they are not able to easily get the training that they need to progress their career – and that figure rises to 46% for workers with lower levels of formal educational qualifications.

  1. Safer Workplaces

As we have written about elsewhere, Covid has shone a light on the weaknesses of the systems that are meant to protect us at work. Since December, we have surveyed workers on a monthly basis about their health and safety concerns and the steps that have been taken to keep their workplaces Covid-free. The results have been troubling.

Despite clear guidance to employers from Welsh Government, only 41% of respondents say that their employer has carried out a Covid risk assessment. 23% say that staff were consulted on a risk assessment. The guidance is now fixed in law as part of the Covid regulations but there has been no discernible impact of this strengthening yet.

On worker voice in relation to health and safety, 16% report not being comfortable raising COVID risks at work. This problem is most acute among 16-24-year olds (27%), workers with lower levels of educational qualifications (26%), part-time workers (24%), and workers from households with under £20k annual income (23%).

4. A Fair and Green Recovery

After investing in strengthening the public sector, the next highest priority for the recovery is creating jobs through public investment in green infrastructure, including faster broadband, greener homes, and new electric transport.

Wales TUC research has set out how funding in this area could create up to 60,000 jobs over the next two years.

Workers also support the principle of ensuring a just transition for workers as part of any move to a greener economy.

Other suggestions to score highly as priority areas for the recovery are “introducing skills and retraining schemes for workers at risk of redundancy” (21%) and “public investment in industries hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, such as aviation, aerospace and hospitality” (21%).

There is also overwhelming support for taking more radical action to help tenants in the private rented sector - with 66% in favour of introducing rent controls and just 8% opposed. 

5. Greater devolution of powers to Wales

When asked where key decisions should be made, workers support the Welsh Government controlling areas like education and health where powers are already devolved.

They also support Cardiff rather than Westminster making policy on welfare and taxation issues.

And, perhaps most notably given recent debates about the UK Government’s plans to control funds for its ‘levelling up’ programme, workers in Wales also strongly back Welsh Government control of economic development policy.

Taken together, these findings show that workers are supportive of the Welsh Government taking a much more active and interventionist approach to the economy over the course of the next term. There will be strong public backing for a Government that is prepared to boost the public sector, invest in the green infrastructure we need, and fight for good quality jobs across the whole of the labour market.