‘One in four retail staff missing meals to pay bills’

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One in four retail staff are missing meals every month to be able to pay their bills while most report that financial worries are impacting their mental health, a retail trade union said earlier this week.

Usdaw has published statistics from their cost of living survey of over 5,500 retail staff, mainly low-paid key workers who deliver essential services which show that petrol prices and travel costs impact the ability to get to work for nearly 50 percent of respondents.

Seven in 10 have relied on insecure borrowing and 60 percent of these are struggling with repayments. One in four are missing meals every month to be able to pay their bills, this has increased from one in 20 last year. Nearly three-quarters report their mental health is being impacted as a result of financial worries, says Usdaw.

“It is heart-breaking to hear these testimonies from workers who are in the main key workers that we rely on for essential services. Usdaw’s recent cost of living survey of over 5,500 lays bare the struggle low-paid workers are experiencing just to make ends meet,” Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says. 

“Many respondents talked of how increased fuel prices were leading them to cut down on shifts, to ask for a transfer to a store closer to home or even to consider leaving work altogether. Worryingly, cutting down on food and skipping meals was also a common theme, as well as taking steps to reduce non-work related travel to save on fuel costs, such as visiting family or pursuing leisure activities.

 “These are the very real experiences of essential workers who were clapped during the pandemic and now seem to be forgotten. The Government has offered only sticking plasters that go nowhere near covering rising prices and bills, so there needs to be significant increases in minimum wage rates and fundamental reforms to end insecure work.

Usdaw is calling for a new deal for workers, with minimum wage rates of at least £12 per hour as a step towards £15 for all workers.

Other demands include better sick pay for all workers, from day one, at average earnings, protection at work, respect for shop workers as abuse is not a part of the job, proper social security system and job security, with day one employment rights for unfair dismissal and significant improvements to redundancy protections.