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Pay freeze should be on voters’ minds

Voters are being reminded that thousands of public sector staff face a government pay freeze in a campaign launched today (Monday) by UNISON ahead of the local elections next week.

Care home staff, hospital porters and teaching assistants are among key workers featured in a series of hard-hitting films that show them carrying out vital jobs during the pandemic when many people were safe at home.

Mercury Prize winner Speech Debelle has recorded the voiceovers for the black and white videos that urge people to ‘vote for fair pay in the May elections’.

The films, which will be shown on Facebook and YouTube, remind people how public service staff have ‘stepped up’, only to be let down by the government despite the physical and emotional strain they have faced.

The government has recommended a rise of just 1% for NHS workers that UNISON and other health unions have branded ‘derisory’. A one-year pay freeze for most public sector key workers was also announced by Rishi Sunak last November.

UNISON says voting for change at the ballot box is an opportunity for the public to show the government they don’t want key workers taken for granted or their pay squeezed.

In addition to a proper increase for all key workers, the union wants care staff to receive at least the real living wage of £9.50 an hour (or £10.85 in London), and all NHS staff to receive at least a £2,000 rise (£10.23 an hour minimum).

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Public sector workers have been at the heart of the country’s fight against the pandemic. It’s thanks to them that loved ones have been cared for, bins emptied and children educated.

“They’ve kept communities safe by providing vital services and giving 100 per cent. But the government is set on squeezing their wages.

“A pay boost for the public sector would actually help the wider economy. Yet ministers insist on pitting workers against each other with false claims.

“This is your chance to stop them being taken for granted. Choose wisely when casting your vote.”

Notes to editors: 
– Elections for 145 English local councils, for the mayor of London, London assembly, police and crime commissioners and directly elected mayors of city regions take place in England on 6 May.
– The government says a pay freeze is necessary because pay has been rising faster in the public sector than the private. However, UNISON says this doesn’t take into account how public sector pay has fallen behind during years of pay restraint. The real value of pay after inflation is now typically 18% below what it was in 2009.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts: 
Anthony Barnes M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk
Fatima Ayad M: 07908 377215 E: f.ayad@unison.co.uk

May 4, 2021