Unions call for Chancellor to tackle labour shortages and boost wages

Trade unions have called on the Chancellor to do more to boost wages and tackle labour shortages that are hitting both the private and public sectors.
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The Chancellor is due to present his Budget Spring Statement on March 23, and unions want to see him help people out amid the cost of living rise and what they say is a rising number of unpaid hours many staff are working.

The TUC said that last year, employers claimed around £27bn of free labour last year because of workers doing unpaid overtime, although due to pandemic-disrupted working practices such as working from home it was harder to understand long-term trends.

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It’s research calculated that 3.8 million people did unpaid overtime in 2021, putting in an average of 7.6 unpaid hours a week. On average, that was equivalent to £7,100 a year of wages going unpaid for work done.

Francis O’GradyFrancis O’Grady
Francis O’Grady

The TUC, which is planning a cost of living march during the Conservative spring conference in Blackpool next weekend, added that the combination of labour shortages in parts of the economy and the cost of living crisis was likely to mean that many people were working more intensely for shrinking real pay packets.

In the public sector, it said, overworking and excessive workloads were driven by a recruitment and retention crisis, exacerbated by a decade of government-imposed pay restraint.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Most of us are happy to put in some extra time when it’s needed, but we should get that time back when it’s quieter. Nobody should end up doing work they don’t get paid for.

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“Britain is now facing both labour shortages and a cost of living crisis. If the government does not take action to supporter workers, they will end up working longer hours for less pay.

“The Chancellor should use his spring statement to set out plans to tackle labour shortages in public services, and to fund training where there are skills shortages. And he should come forward with a plan to get wages rising across the economy.

“During the pandemic, we’ve seen an increase in unpaid hours worked at home.

"With homeworking expected to stay higher after the pandemic, it is important that employers respect rights to clock-off and switch-off at home. Ministers should help by bringing in new rights to flexible working for everyone, including a right to switch-off outside working hours.”

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