Saturday, 18 April 2015


On the 20-22 April the STUC Congress will be meeting in Ayr. The theme of this year's Congress is Decent Work and Dignified Lives. In the run up to Congress this blog will host a series of articles prepared by STUC affiliated unions. These articles reflect the positions and priorities of our affiliates and are designed to give a flavour of the disparate work that the trade union movement is undertaking in pursuit of decent work and dignified lives.

Usdaw is the UK’s fourth largest trade union and has over 45,000 thousand members across Scotland. Usdaw members, like workers all across the country have been hit by the ongoing effects of the cost of living crisis. Last year, Usdaw surveyed our membership to gather evidence on how the crisis is affecting their daily lives.

The survey generated over 2,000 responses, providing heart-felt individual anecdotes from members struggling in the face of austerity. When asked to compare themselves to five years earlier, nearly 80% of members felt financially worse off. The financial strain that members are now experiencing can be seen clearly in their day to day lives with many struggling to pay bills and turning to payday loan lenders.

For example over 80% of members reported that they have struggled to pay gas and electricity bills over the last five years. One of our members in East Ayrshire reported that,

“It has become increasingly difficult to makes ends meet, although I am able to do this it seems every month to get increasingly harder.”

Over 20% of Usdaw members are regularly missing meals to save money to pay bills and nearly 75% of members reported cutting back on other essentials to cover transport costs. It is clear from the results that disposable income has all but disappeared with all money now going on necessities. A member from the Scottish Highlands reported,

“Me and my partner both now work full time and we still can’t afford holidays or any luxuries. We can’t even afford to heat our tiny flat.”

The survey also looked at the issues created through a lack of affordable housing, with 43% of respondents stating that they occasionally or regularly missed rent or mortgage payments. The problems faced in housing were summarised by the following two quotes received from Scottish members:

“Housing should be a priority as my house costs take 75% of my wage.”

“I am fortunate in the sense that I live with my mother so we help each other however if I lived alone I could not survive on my income only.”

A complete lack of affordable housing is pushing people into poverty and removing their independence. In an effort to fix this, over 80% of respondents supported Labour’s home building programme and over 93% of respondents agreed that there should be more control on rents.

Usdaw is now using the results of this survey in discussions with employers and politicians to promote the policies needed to resolve the crisis. Over the past five years, Usdaw has been delivering above average pay rises on behalf of our members. However with working people struggling to meet their housing needs, struggling to heat their homes and struggling to feed their families, the cost of living crisis will not be resolved by pay negotiations alone.

For this reason, Usdaw is fully committed to achieving a UK Labour Government at next month’s General Election.

Lawrence Wason
Divisional Officer, Usdaw


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