Congress believes the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted brutally the damage that a decade of austerity and underinvestment in public services has inflicted.
The pandemic has had a severe impact on staff. They have been under huge amounts of pressure and are exhausted, traumatised and struggling with their mental health.
Congress congratulates all public sector workers for the dedication they have continued to demonstrate, along with other key workers, during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite their commitment, millions of workers are being placed in an impossible position by the longstanding failure of governments to back up ambitions for public services with the resources need to deliver them.
The budget plans outlined by the chancellor in March reveal spending constraints that will heap further pressure on public services still reeling from more than a decade of cuts.
Already, we are seeing jobs cuts, ruthless fire and rehire measures, councils being forced to withdraw and scale back local services and the imposition of a pay freeze affecting millions across public services.
The health and care sector face particular challenges, compounded by low pay, and urgent reforms are needed.
Congress notes a report on NHS staff burnout from the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee found that burnout is widespread and excessive workloads due to understaffing is a key driver. Maternity services are stretched almost to breaking point.
Congress recognises the impact of exploitative employment conditions in social care, noting:
i. Research for GMB Scotland’s Show You Care report found that four-fifths of care workers felt undervalued by their management or employer.
ii. Work by UNISON continues to show non-compliance with the minimum wage in the sector.
iii. A recent GMB survey found that three-quarters of care workers said that their mental health had worsened during the pandemic.
These exploitative working practices disproportionately affect older women and Black, Asian and minority ethnic workers.
The value of these workers must be properly recognised now and into the future.
Congress calls for:
a. sustainable long-term investment in all our public services, enabling them to meet day-to-day demands and address backlogs in the NHS and the challenge of long covid
b. decent pay and reward for people working in public services and across the wider economy, including an immediate end to the pay freeze
c. the creation of a fair and equal society that addresses the serious structural inequalities exposed by the pandemic
d. economic policies that create a greener and more sustainable economy.
Congress calls on the General Council to:
1. continue the campaign for fully funded public services to meet the needs of the current and future UK population
2. give the highest priority to making progress on public sector pay, ending the pay freeze and paying all workers a decent, living wage commensurate with our skills and contribution to society
3. work with public sector unions on campaigns to address the workforce crisis in the NHS urgently, for a meaningful and sustainable pay rise to address years of shortfall, and protected time to access mental health and medical services for NHS staff to aid a quicker recovery from the effects of the pandemic
4. support a campaign for the fundamental reform of the social care system that reflects:
5. the GMB’s campaign for care workers to be paid at least £15 an hour to bring earnings in line with the average for workers in the whole economy and the NHS, and to give care workers the reward and recognition they deserve.
6. UNISON’s campaign for a national care service, incorporating sustained funding and the creation of a comprehensive framework of provision mirroring the NHS.
Supporters: Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, Royal College of Midwives, British Dietetic Association, Fire Brigades Union and the Royal College of Podiatry