Unison Secretary General Christina McAnea warned that healthcare workers are now so hit by the cost-of-living crisis that they cannot afford to fill their cars with gas.
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Health workers are getting sick because they can’t buy fuel to drive their cars to care for people in their homes, a union leader said.
Christina McAnea, Unison’s general secretary, attacked the government for “not having a plan” to address the cost-of-living crisis.
The union is campaigning for decent pay increases for millions of public sector workers, including those in the NHS and local government, who she has complained have been subjected to wage restrictions for years.
Many worked during the pandemic, putting themselves and their families at risk, but still faced wage increases below inflation, she said.
McAnea said the cost-of-living crisis will be the main issue at Unison’s annual conference in Brighton next week.
In an interview before the conference, she warned that staff were leaving the NHS in greater numbers than new recruits, including clinical workers, porters, caterers and janitors.
“The private sector can pay more, so public sector employees are leaving to work in supermarkets in the future.
“Half of local government employees earn less than £25,000 a year. Now it’s costing health workers £100 to fuel their car. They just can’t afford it.”
Health workers prefer to call to say they are sick because they don’t have the money for gasoline, she said.
McAnea said the government was refusing to meet with unions to discuss the crisis, adding: “This feels like a government out of reach in its dying days.”
Asked about the government’s calls about salary restrictions, she said: “They’ve forgotten what hospital and ambulance workers and healthcare workers did during the pandemic. It’s like they want to ignore them now.”
Daily Mirror/Ian Vogler)
She added that billions of pounds could be raised by measures such as raising the corporation tax, which could be used to fund public sector pay increases.
Earlier, the union leader backed the impending rail strike, stressing that workers need a pay rise as record inflation starts to bite.
She told Mirror rail staff that she was facing a 6.5% pay cut in real terms and that the RMT union was therefore right to reject the government’s pay offer.
McAnea said use of food banks is increasing among middle-income workers as the cost-of-living crisis sets in, adding of the strikes: “I completely understand why they are doing this.”
The union boss also urged the public to support striking public sector workers, saying falling wages and conditions are forcing people to retire early or take a second job to survive.
McAnea also said healthcare staff are living in squalor, with even middle-income nurses resorting to emergency loans to survive.
Ministers should urgently update HMRC’s mileage rates, which have remained unchanged at 45p per mile since 2011 despite gasoline prices soaring in recent years, she said.
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