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One in five workers skipping meals to make ends meet

Written by: Emma Lunn
A TUC poll has found the number of people missing out on meals due to a lack of money has increased by more than half in two years.

The Trades Union Congress poll found a fifth (20 per cent) of workers miss meals because they can’t afford them.

When the TUC asked the same question in 2017, one in eight (13 per cent) workers reported skipping main meals because they were short of money.

The TUC poll also found that during the past year:

  • One in five (19 per cent) workers went without heating when it was cold
  • One in 10 (10 per cent) could not pay their rent or mortgage on time
  • One in five (20 per cent) had pawned or sold something because they were short of money

When asked how they would deal with an unexpected £500 bill, nearly one in three (30 per cent) workers said they wouldn’t be able to pay – up from 24 per cent in 2017. Of those that could pay, one in four (24 per cent) said they would have to go into debt or sell something.

A quarter of respondents report running out of money at the end of most weeks or months, while a further 16 per cent have to cut down or stop spending many times a year.

Two-fifths (41 per cent) of those polled said that pay not keeping up with living costs is among their biggest concerns at work.

The TUC says the poll findings highlight Britain’s deepening cost of living crisis, which is pushing more families into the red. Analysis published by the union body earlier this month revealed that unsecured household debt rose to £15,880 in the first quarter of 2019 – a £1,160 increase on a year earlier.

The TUC says a toxic mix of rising insecure work, low pay and weak wage growth are key factors behind the living standards crisis.

Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, said: “Having a job should mean you can provide a decent life for your family. But after a decade of low pay, rising insecurity and public spending cuts, millions of working people are struggling to afford even the basics.

“Any responsible Prime Minister would be urgently dealing with Britain’s cost of living crisis. But instead Boris Johnson is threatening to make things much worse by forcing through a no-deal Brexit.

“He must stop playing games with people’s livelihoods and rule out no-deal once and for all. Working people need a government that will get pay rising and rebuild Britain.”

The TUC is calling for:

  • A £10 national minimum wage to be introduced as quickly as possible.
  • Universal Credit to be stopped and scrapped.
  • A ban on zero-hours contracts, and a crackdown on insecure work that leaves people not knowing how much they’ll earn from one week to the next.
  • Policies to ensure that more workers get the freedom to negotiate better pay and conditions through trade unions.
  • New rights that make it easier for unions to access workplaces, gain the right to negotiate, and to negotiate across sectors.

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