Retail trade union Usdaw is again calling on the Government to take immediate action to tackle the cost of living crisis, as inflation continues to grow and wages are devalued by rising prices.

The Retail Prices Index rate of inflation increased to 11.8% today and the Consumer Prices Index reached 9.4%. Usdaw argues that RPI is a more accurate measure of inflation, particularly as it includes housing costs.

Results from Usdaw’s cost of living survey show that low-paid workers, many of them delivering essential services, are struggling to make ends meet. The survey of over 5,500 members found that:

  1. 1 in 4 are missing meals every month to be able to pay their bills, this has increased from 1 in 20 last year.
  2. Petrol prices and travel costs impact the ability to get to work for nearly 50% of respondents.
  3. 7 in 10 have relied on insecure borrowing and 60% of these are struggling with repayments.
  4. Nearly three-quarters report their mental health is being impacted as a result of financial worries.

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “While Tory MPs fight like rats in a sack over who will replace a Prime Minister that appears to have already clocked off, too many workers are struggling to make ends meet. Regrettably the leadership candidates don’t appear to be interested in sorting their cost of living crisis and repeated calls for wage restraint shows that Ministers are failing to understand the scale of the challenge faced by millions of low-paid key workers.

“Increased fuel prices are leading workers to cut down on shifts, to ask for a transfer to a store closer to home or even to consider leaving work altogether. Disturbingly, one-in-four are skipping meals every month to pay the bills. That’s the people working hard to keep food on Britain’s tables who are struggling to put food on their own table.

“These are the very real experiences of essential workers who were clapped during the pandemic and now seem to be forgotten. The Government has offered only sticking plasters that go nowhere near covering rising prices and bills, so there needs to be significant increases in minimum wage rates and fundamental reforms to end insecure work.

“People claiming in-work welfare payments need an immediate increase by at least the level of inflation. This should be followed by an urgent and fundamental overhaul of Universal Credit to ensure a social security benefit that properly supports claimants. Usdaw additionally calls for a reduction in VAT, which is generally accepted to be a regressive tax, adversely impacting low income households.”

Voices from the frontline of the cost of living crisis, some of the comments we received from our survey:

  1. “My first hour’s wage now only just pays for my petrol for that day.”
  2. “I have stress headaches, insomnia and have had panic attacks at the thought of not being able to pay my bills. I have nightmares where I lose my house. It’s hard to get a full night’s sleep and I feel exhausted all the time.”
  3. “I’ve had to borrow money from family in order to afford the petrol I need to get to work.”
  4. “I only eat at tea time with my child.”
  5. “My petrol price has gone up so much that I am no longer able to use my car for leisure only to get to and from work. I can no longer use it at weekends to take my children to parks or beaches in the area as can’t afford it.”

Usdaw’s New Deal for Workers calls for:

  1. Minimum wage of at least £12 per hour as a step towards £15 for all workers, ending rip-off youth rates.
  2. Minimum contract of 16 hours per week, for everyone who wants it, that reflects normal hours worked and a ban on zero-hour contracts.
  3. Better sick pay for all workers, from day one, at average earnings.
  4. Protection at work, respect for shopworkers, abuse is not a part of the job.
  5. Proper social security system, Universal Credit does not provide an effective safety net.
  6. Job security, with day one employment rights for unfair dismissal and significant improvements to redundancy protections.
  7. Fair treatment and equality for all workers, including equal pay.
  8. Voice at work, stop rogue employers refusing to engage with trade unions and end ‘fire and rehire’.
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