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Key workers risking their lives on poverty pay must be paid at least £15 an hour, union demands

KEY WORKERS risking their health for poverty wages must be paid at least £15 per hour, a union is demanding. 

Over three million essential workers are at high risk of exposure to the virus, according to a study by economic think tank Autonomy

Yet more than one million of them are going home with extremely low wages, receiving pay below the poverty line. 

Now London-based union United Voices of the World (UVW) is calling for all essential workers to receive at least the average pay in Britain, £15 per hour. 

“No key worker deserves less than the median salary,” the union said.

“These people are more than key workers. They are heroes. They deserve far more recognition, not only in words, but in wages too.” 

A large number of UVW members are classed as essential workers, including hospital cleaners and porters, and must continue going to work during the coronavirus lockdown. 

But being in precarious, low-paid roles without proper sick pay means that they are forced to go to work even if they have underlying health conditions or fall ill, the union explained. 

UVW rep Petros Elia highlighted the case of a cleaner at St Mary’s hospital in west London who, despite having type-1 diabetes and high blood pressure, was having to work on a coronavirus ward.

 “A lot of our members are getting very sick, a lot are contracting this virus, and unfortunately many of them are not getting proper sick pay, and so they simply cannot afford to stay at home, which is what they should be doing,” Mr Elia told the Morning Star. 

Although the union acknowledged that  £15 per hour wouldn’t compensate for the risk to peoples’ health, it would be a step towards valuing all key workers on the front line. 

The GMB union also called for higher wages for key public service-workers today , suggesting they should be paid a “coronavirus allowance.”

General secretary Tim Roach said: “Key workers are risking their health for the public good and they shouldn't be going home to their families with poverty pay in their purses and pockets. 

“That's why we're calling for a coronavirus crisis allowance to be paid now.”

Meanwhile, transport union TSSA called on Westminster to introduce free travel for NHS staff and other key workers. 

“Heroes have to be treated as heroes and the least we can do is allow them to travel freely to and from work at this time,” the union’s general secretary Manuel Cortes said.

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