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Nigel Costley, South West TUC regional secretary

Quarter of Swindon’s key workers “actively considering” quitting – report

A quarter (24 percent) of key workers in the public sector in Swindon are “actively considering” quitting and changing profession, according to the South West TUC following polling published today (Thursday).

The polling, conducted by YouGov, reveals serious disillusionment among key workers in the public sector – with feeling undervalued, low pay and an excessive workload the most common reasons cited by workers for wanting to quit.

The government’s three percent pay rise to NHS staff has been rejected as insufficient by large majorities of public sector workers in union ballots. Similar votes have occurred in local government. Many other public sector staff are angry at the on-going pay freeze which, in real terms, amounts to a pay cut.

Some 18,400 people work for the public sector in Swindon. Over two thirds (36 percent) of public sector key workers in the region say that government policy on public sector pay has made them less likely to stay in the profession, according to the new polling.

The TUC has warned that if ministers fail to give departments the funding needed to raise pay they will not be ending the public sector pay freeze, amid reporting suggesting the chancellor is set to announce an end to the freeze.

It has warned that a “toxic mix” of low pay, excessive workloads and a broader lack of recognition is pushing key workers in the public sector to the brink – with many at breaking point and on the verge of leaving their profession for good.

Even before the pandemic, there were 100,000 vacancies in the NHS and more than 112,000 in social care.

The union body says that these unfilled vacancies, on top of a decade of underfunding, has left public services “cut down to the bone” – placing huge amounts of pressure on public sector workers.

And the TUC argues that the squeeze on public sector workers hits the whole economy, with higher wages feeding directly into the local economy.

The TUC says public sector pay has fallen in real terms across the board since 2010:

  • Nurse pay is down £2,469
  • Care worker pay is down £1,490
  • Refuse collector pay is down £1,519
  • Firefighter pay is down £2,579
  • Teacher pay is down £2,003

The organisation is calling on the government to urgently prioritise key worker pay and public services funding in the forthcoming spending review. The union body says ministers must:

  • End the freeze on public service workers’ pay and give all public service workers a decent pay rise by giving Whitehall departments the necessary funding to do so.
  • Fund the public sector so that all outsourced workers are paid at least the real Living Wage and get parity with directly employed staff.
  • Raise the national minimum wage to £10 per hour immediately.
  • Increase investment in our public services so schools, hospitals, councils and the wider civil service can deliver the services communities need.

“Everyone deserves fair pay and dignity at work,” said South West TUC regional secretary Nigel Costley. “But too many key workers in the public sector are at breaking point because of a toxic mix of low pay, excessive workloads and a serious lack of recognition.

“These are the nurses, care workers, and teachers that helped keep the country going through the pandemic.

“After years of our key workers being underpaid and our public services underfunded, this pandemic has to be a turning point.

“Enough is enough. Ministers must use the autumn spending review to end the public sector pay freeze and give all public sector workers a pay rise. And they must properly fund our public services too.”