What workers want – fair pay, great workmates and the chance to get on

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date: 29 August 2008

embargo: 00:01hrs Monday 1 September 2008

Six million workers (24 per cent or one in four of the UK workforce) are not satisfied with their job - and almost one in three (30 per cent) do not feel engaged by their employer, according to a new report from the TUC released today (Monday).

'What workers want' is based on an extensive YouGov poll of more than 2,500 people at work in Britain and published in the run up to the 140th Congress which opens next week in Brighton.

The commonest problem that faces people at work is increased workload, with 11 million workers (46 per cent) complaining of this. This is followed by 'pay not keeping up with the cost of living' (42 per cent). The top problems group into three main headings:

  • Workloads, stress and hours - the biggest complaint is of an increased workload (46 per cent), with 39 per cent complaining of increased stress levels and 23 per cent of longer working hours.
  • Pay - just under half the workforce say that their pay has not kept up with the cost of living (42 per cent) and significant proportions say that their workplace has unfair pay structures (26 per cent) or they do not get the same pay as people doing similar jobs for other organisations (31 per cent).
  • Training and progression - 30 per cent complain of poor promotion prospects and 27 per cent say they lack training - almost 7 million.

Significant minorities of the workforce complain of serious problems. Three and a half million people (14 per cent or one in seven of the workforce) say they have been bullied in their current job. Just under two and a half million say they work where it is unsafe. More than one and half million say they have been unfairly disciplined. The most commonly reported discrimination is on the grounds of age which is complained of by 640,000. Nearly six million say they suffer from boring or repetitive work.

The top attribute that people look for in a job is fair pay (98 per cent) but only 66 per cent say they enjoy their work. The next popular wish is largely met. Nine out of ten value 'working with a great group of people' (90 per cent), and 84 per cent say that they do. The biggest gap between aspiration and reality is 'opportunities for promotion and advancement', 73 per cent say this is important but only 34 per cent say that they experience this at work.

In the TUC report, unions get support not just from union members, but from working non-members too. Six out of ten workers (60 per cent) agree that 'unions provide vital protection for many groups of workers', with only one in eight (12 per cent) disagreeing. Only one in five (21 per cent) think that 'unions are no longer relevant in today's world' and only slightly more (26 per cent) think that 'unions hold back companies in today's competitive world'. More non-members than not say that unions provide vital protection, agree that employees feel more involved in company decisions where employers talk to unions and reject the view that trade unions are no longer relevant in today's world.

The issue that workers most want unions to raise with Government is 'more protection for the low paid against exploitation by the worst employers' (81 per cent), followed by 'compulsory employer contributions to pensions' (70 per cent), 'action to close the pay gap between men and women' (67 per cent) and 'more rights and opportunities for employees to get training and learn new skills' (66 per cent). The report says that these are indeed all union priorities with important successes:

'The report of the TUC's Commission on Vulnerable Workers has led to the Government bringing forward a range of proposals to improve enforcement and knowledge of employment rights. Compulsory employer contributions to pensions are contained in the Pensions Bill currently before Parliament. Improved access to training and skills is also a major TUC policy, with the Government now committed to a right for staff to request training.'

The issues that workers most want unions to raise with employers are first, pay (86 per cent), second, pensions (80 per cent) and third, safety (77 per cent). These traditional bread and butter issues are followed by excessive workloads (72 per cent), stress (69 per cent) and access to training (69 per cent).

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'There are some challenging figures here for British employers with a quarter of the workforce saying they are not satisfied with their jobs and almost one in three saying that their employers do not engage with them.

'While most employees are reasonably content with their lot, there is clearly a minority who are suffering from real problems such as bullying, dangerous workplaces and unfair discrimination. There may be no magic bullet for improving Britain's productivity, but without engaging staff and providing the training and advancement opportunities they want we do not have much chance.

'But there is good news for unions. We are campaigning for the issues that matter to people at work, with TUC priorities getting the thumbs-up from both trade unionists and non-members too. There are lessons here for politicians. They must speak to workplace issues and the TUC's agenda.'

The full text of 'What workers want - an agenda from the workplace, for the workplace' is available at www.tuc.org.uk/extras/pollreport.pdf and the detailed figures are at www.tuc.org.uk/extras/pollfigures.pdf


- All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,857 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 28 July - 8 August 2008. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+), trade union members and non-trade union members.

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

- Register for the TUC's press extranet: a service exclusive to journalists wanting to access pre-embargo releases and reports from the TUC. Visit www.tuc.org.uk/pressextranet

- Congress 2008 will be held at the Brighton Centre, Brighton from Monday 8 September to Thursday 11 September. All applications for media passes must be received no later than noon Tuesday 2 September. Any applications received after this date will be processed in Brighton and subject to a £50 administration fee. The form for media credentials, plus information on how to book wireless internet access and a phone line at the Brighton Centre can be accessed at www.tuc.org.uk/mediacredentials


Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248 M: 07778 158175 E: [email protected]
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: [email protected]
Elly Brenchley T: 020 7467 1337 M: 07900 910624 E: [email protected]

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