Care staff ‘calling in sick because they cannot afford fuel to get to work’

Unison chief attacks government for ‘not having a plan’ to tackle cost of living crisis as cost of filling typical family car tops £100 for first time

<p>The Unison chief says the cost of living crisis is forcing people out of the care industry </p>

The Unison chief says the cost of living crisis is forcing people out of the care industry

Care workers are calling in sick because they cannot afford fuel to drive their cars to look after people in their homes, a union leader has said.

Christina McAnea, general secretary of Unison, attacked the government for “not having a plan” to tackle the cost of living crisis.

The union is campaigning for decent pay rises for millions of public sector workers, including those in the NHS and local government, who she complained had been subjected to wage restraint for years.

Many had worked through the pandemic, putting themselves and their families at risk, but still faced below-inflation pay rises, she said.

It came as the average cost of filling a typical family car with petrol exceeded £100 for the first time on record.

Ms McAnea said the cost of living crisis will be the main issue at Unison’s annual conference in Brighton next week.

Speaking ahead of the conference, she warned staff were leaving the NHS in greater numbers than new recruits, including clinical workers, porters, caterers and cleaners.

“The private sector can afford to pay more, so public sector staff are leaving to work for supermarkets down the road,” she said.

“Half of local government workers earn less than £25,000 a year. It is now costing care workers £100 to fill up their car. They just cannot afford it.”

Care workers would rather call in sick because they do not have the money for petrol, the union leader said.

Ms McAnea said the government was refusing to meet trade unions to discuss the crisis, adding: “This feels like an out-of-touch government in its dying days.”

Asked about calls from the government urging pay restraint, she said: “They have forgotten what hospital and ambulance staff and care workers did during the pandemic. It’s like they want to ignore them now.”

She added that billions of pounds could be raised by measures such as increasing corporation tax, which could be used to fund public sector pay rises.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has also warned nurses will suffer a huge wage “hit” this year if the government imposes a pay rise well below the soaring rate of inflation.

The TUC said its analysis showed nurses’ pay will be down by as much as £1,600 in real terms this year if ministers impose a 3 per cent pay settlement. Porters’ real pay will be down by £1,000, maternity care assistants’ by £1,200 and paramedics’ by up to £2,000, it added.

A below-inflation pay rise for NHS staff this year would be “swallowed up” by rising energy costs, with energy prices rising 40 times faster than NHS workers’ wages this year in the event of a 3 per cent settlement, said the TUC.

It warned NHS workers were on the brink after a “brutal decade” of pay cuts which have left them thousands of pounds worse off.

NHS workers received a 3 per cent pay rise last year and unions say ministers have asked the NHS Pay Review Body to recommend a similar award this year, despite RPI inflation reaching double figures.

The TUC said its study showed nurses’ real pay was down £5,200 compared with 2010, warning that stagnant wages have played a major role in the “crippling staff shortages” in the NHS.

Additional reporting by PA

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