Public sector workers in Wales pawning possessions to survive, says UNISON
Hundreds of public sector workers in Wales have pawned possessions to survive while more than 1,000 have gone without meals says trade union UNISON.
A heart-breaking survey by UNISON Cymru/Wales, which represents tens of thousands of public sector workers in Wales, has revealed the devastating impact of the cost-of-living crisis on those providing vital public services.
The union is preparing to host a major rally against the crisis in the centre of Cardiff tomorrow, October 6, as well as launching a ballot of health workers for industrial action following what it describes as a derisory pay award.
UNISON’s latest survey, which was completed by more than 6,000 workers including 1,555 NHS staff, found 46% of those who took part said their monthly living costs had increased by up to £300, while 1,188 people had asked for financial support from family or friends.
It also revealed 404 people had pawned possessions to survive while 1,025 have gone without meals and 274 workers had used a food bank.
UNISON heard first-hand from public sector employees facing the full force of the crisis.
Vanessa, a kitchen assistant in Torfaen, said: “My son is disabled with cerebral palsy on benefits and lives in a bungalow on his own.
“His gas and electric have gone up from £85pm to £185pm and he’s asked me when he should put the heating on.
“I am worrying how I will keep subsidising him on the money I earn. It’s not feasible. If it wasn’t for Universal Credit, I wouldn’t be able to live in my flat, but I am contemplating moving in with him.
“The government doesn’t understand the cost-of-living crisis. They don’t seem to care and are deceitful. It is heart-breaking to see my son in this position.”
Alison, a public service worker in Powys, said: “Coming towards the end of each month, I have gone without meals and made do with water, a cup of tea or hot chocolate.
“The family supermarket shop used to cost £60, now the same shop costs me £90. I’m technically disabled and I hoped to save for a bathroom adaptation, but there’s absolutely no money to put away.
“So long-term, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to stay in my home. I’m hoping for a change of government.
“The Conservatives don’t care about working class people.”
Dominic MacAskill, UNISON Cymru/Wales regional secretary, said: “Our latest survey has tragically revealed the threat of homelessness, hunger and in-work poverty is now an every-day reality for public service workers and their families in Wales.
“Thousands of UNISON-organised workers across all public services in Wales are feeling undervalued, underpaid and overwhelmed.
“We are living under a Tory Westminster government whose ‘mini’ budget overtly benefits the richest members of society at the same time as undermining the needs of the vast majority of people.
“There is now a stark division between them and us and a pressing need for a broader trade union and labour movement-led socialist response.”
Wales TUC general secretary, Shavanah Taj, who will be speaking at the UNISON rally, along with Cynon Valley MP Beth Winter who conducted her own survey into how the cost-of-living crisis is affecting her constituents.
She said: “The cost-of-living report I completed in Cynon Valley earlier this year shone a light on the level of fear and suffering in our communities.
“Over 80% of people reported that finances were having a negative impact on their mental health while 40% of people said they are simply not going to put the heating on at all in the next year.
“One person even said they felt guilty for bringing their children into the world.
“Westminster holds the purse strings, but working people can’t afford to wait around for a Labour government to get into power, we need to organise now.”
The UNISON Cymru/Wales cost-of-living crisis rally takes place at the Radisson Blu Hotel on October 6, 5.30-7pm.
The rally will also be supporting Cardiff Food Bank, part of The Trussell Trust.
UNISON Cymru/Wales will be balloting health workers in Wales for industrial action from October 27-November 25.
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