'Hungry for change'

Britons overwhelmingly want a new deal economy where key workers are valued

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Britons are hungry for change once the coronavirus crisis subsides, a new survey published today (May 7) has revealed.

The survey, conducted for Unite by pollster Survation found that a large majority of people in the UK want to see key workers – many of whom are low-paid – properly rewarded.

They also want a revolution in the how the economy works for ordinary people, reflecting what Unite has long said during the crisis – that there cannot be a return to business as normal once the pandemic is beaten.

Asked to identify from a list of policy choices which should be the top priorities for the government following this crisis, the public overwhelmingly chose investment in the NHS, followed by more pay for key workers and getting on with Brexit.

A strong majority – 60 per cent – said the coronavirus crisis has changed their view about what constitutes a key worker, with an overwhelming 74 per cent saying they felt the economy must be rebalanced so that key workers are valued more.

And for the British public valuing these workers more and truly recognising their efforts must translate into better pay and terms and conditions – large majorities say they want to see the minimum wage raised and zero-hour contracts banned.

Other policies that had significant support included guaranteed job security and raising statutory sick pay to a living wage level.

The survey of 2,000 people conducted in the run-up to May Day also found that the public have overwhelmingly rejected the dogma of austerity. A strong majority – 60 per cent – said they believed that years of cuts to public services have had a negative impact on the UK’s ability to respond to the crisis. Meanwhile, 71 per cent believe the government response to the economic crisis unleashed by the pandemic should be to tax the wealthy instead of cutting public services in another round of austerity.

There was vanishingly little appetite from the public for any support for tax avoiding businesses – 81 per cent said they believed that no business that operates a tax avoiding scheme should get a government bailout.

The public also envisions a future where domestic manufacturing plays a greater role in the UK – a strong majority, nearly 70 per cent, said they believed the UK is too reliant on goods from abroad.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey welcomed the results of the survey.

“This crisis has exposed deep faults in how our country works,” he said. “The public can see that in this time of maximum economic and health strife it is our lowly paid key workers, not the super-rich, who are leading this country through this crisis. 

“It’s the nurses, bus drivers, refuse collectors, food workers and delivery drivers and so many more across the economy who have put their lives on the line to serve the public, often without adequate safety equipment,” he added. “The very least they deserve now is income and job security.

“By contrast, the British public has also delivered a withering assessment of tax avoiders, regarding them as deserving of little sympathy.

“The other big message is that the British people utterly reject another round of austerity, and see proper funding for the NHS as their number one concern,” McCluskey noted.

“The best way to fund the NHS and our public services is through a strong UK manufacturing base, paying decent wages, supporting the crumbling service economy and generating income for the Treasury.

“With our manufacturing sector under huge attack from the virus and its fallout, we urgently need government to engage with us on renewing and reviving this vital sector,” he went on to say.

“This is a country hungry for change, hungry for a new deal for working people.  My call to the government is to read the mood of the nation and work with us to set forth an ambitious plan to deliver just financial rewards and stability for the real wealth creators of this country, working people.”

By Hajera Blagg

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