Thousands of key workers will earn less on Christmas Day than they did a decade ago, according to analysis from the TUC.
Its research found that nurses’ real wages are down more than £2,700 per year; local government care workers earn £1,600 less a year; and chefs £1,050 less a year.
Police sergeants and constables have had the biggest reduction, with inflation-adjusted pay £5,595 a year lower than a decade ago, or a reduction of 12%.
The TUC compared pay data between 2010 and 2021, adjusting amounts for inflation using the consumer prices index (CPI) measure. NHS and local authority wage differences were estimated using current pay offers.
The union body wants the government to raise the national minimum wage to £10 an hour “immediately” and ensure that all outsourced public sector workers are paid at least the real living wage, a rate recommended by the Living Wage Foundation based on living costs.
It said that many key workers had spent months on the frontline during the pandemic and would be at “breaking point” due to low pay, excessive workloads and lack of recognition.
General secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Many of the key workers who are bracing themselves for another surge of Covid cases are earning less in real terms than they were a decade ago. That is not right.
“While many of us are tucking into the turkey, thousands of key workers will be hard at work on the frontline, many of them dealing with staff shortages as a result of the Omicron variant. But their pay awards are falling way short of what they should be, especially in a cost-of-living crisis.
“The pandemic must be a turning point. 2022 should be the year that the government finally gets wages rising across the UK. They can start by giving our public service workers a proper pay rise, and by raising the minimum wage to £10 an hour.”
Earlier this month, the TUC urged the government to raise statutory sick pay for workers hit by the pandemic such as hospitality, retail and the arts, as almost 650,000 do not qualify as they don’t meet the lower earnings limit of £120 a week.
The government announced earlier this week it would reintroduce the statutory sick pay rebate scheme for companies with fewer than 250 employees.