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THE government must repay the debt to key workers by scrapping zero-hours contracts and topping up the minimum wage, the TUC conference heard today.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady warned ministers not to “punch down on the working poor” by giving in to recent calls from business groups to freeze the minimum wage next year.
Addressing the TUC’s first virtual conference, Ms O’Grady said: “Hard work should pay for everyone, no matter who you are or what kind of job you do.
“Yet too many of those who kept this country going through the crisis don’t get the respect they deserve.
“I have a message for this government … about the minimum wage — that’s the wage for two million key workers — it must rise as planned: don’t punch down on the working poor.
“Key workers have shown courage, dedication, that’s real civic duty. Now it’s time for governments and employers to repay that debt, fix their contracts, give people dignity at work.”
Launching the TUC’s new campaign for key workers, Ms O’Grady said that the government must raise the minimum wage to at least £10 an hour, give “meaningful pay rises” to over four million public-sector key workers and ban zero-hours contracts.
According to recent analysis by the TUC, one in nine workers in Britain are in insecure work, many of whom are key workers, while two million are paid the minimum wage.
In her keynote speech to the 152nd TUC Congress, the general secretary laid into the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. Ms O’Grady accused ministers of being out of touch with the public, “like when the PM ordered a return to work without a proper plan for public transport and precious little thought for working mums and dads and childcare.”
She went on: “Instead, a useless app, a mutant algorithm and a half-baked test-and-trace system: less moonshot and more a case of moonshine.”
Union leaders also accused the government of failing to keep workers safe.
Public-service union PSC general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “I have no doubt in saying the actions of this government have contributed to thousands of deaths that could have been avoided.”
UCU leader Jo Grady said that the government was reopening universities not for the benefit of students but “because they’ve constructed a marketplace for education that needs its ultimate consumers, our students, to pay fees and rent.”
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