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Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Job insecurity and stress rife as report paints picture of 'overworked and underpaid' Britain

Written by Andrew Woodcock

Almost four-fifths of British workers expect to become poorer over the coming year, as wages fail to keep pace with inflation, according to a new report.

Released on the same day as labour market statistics expected to show continuing high levels of employment, the report by left-leaning think tank Class (the Centre for Labour and Social Studies) found that the UK was becoming "an overworked and underpaid nation".

The think tank said a survey of 2,000 workers carried out by pollsters Survation for the report showed "alarming" levels of stress due to longer hours and lower pay, with more than half reporting increased workload over the past 12 months.

Just 25% of those questioned said they believed the economy was working for them, and two out of five households said they had taken on a second job or were seriously considering doing so to help make ends meet.

Only 22% said they expected to receive a pay rise to match or beat inflation this year and almost half (47%) said they regarded the state of the economy as a threat to their future employment.

Even among those paid over £40,000, around one-third said they were not earning enough to keep up with the cost of living.

Alongside privatisation, austerity and the outsourcing of public sector jobs, the report identified a phenomenon of "Brexit opportunism" among employers which was driving insecurity and suppressing wages.

It detailed reports from trade unions of employers citing the uncertainty created by the UK's impending withdrawal from the EU as a justification to hold down wages and refuse improvements to terms and conditions.

Some 28% of those questioned said they expected Brexit to have a negative effect on working life, compared with 16% who expect the impact to be positive.

Class director Faiza Shaheen said: "Workers in Britain are rapidly losing hope and believe there is no light at the end of the tunnel on pay.

"They are overworked, underpaid, stressed and beset with job insecurity and wage stagnation. With interest rates set to rise, workers are caught in a perfect storm.

"There are two economies in Britain - one where the Government boasts about record employment and the other which is defined by work intensification and a never-ending pay squeeze."

The report - entitled Labour Market Realities: Workers On The Brink - called for:

  • Collective bargaining and a bigger voice for workers on company boards;
  • Legislation to compensate for over-work;
  • An end to zero-hour contracts;
  • A ban on employers contacting staff outside work hours;
  • Closure of loopholes allowing exploitation of agency staff.

Survation questioned 2,000 working adults in the UK between January 4 and 6.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: "This new research exposes the reality of life in Britain for ordinary people under this Government.

"Almost eight years of Tory economic failure has produced falling real wages and millions of workers forced to take on second jobs just to make ends meet.

"Three quarters of working people believe the economy is not working for them and they are absolutely right.

"It's been rigged by the Tories in the interests of the very few at the top, not the many who have been failed by endless cuts to public services and falling real wages."

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