Tom Hunt’s snub a ‘slap in the face’ for pandemic heroes

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt’s refusal to meet his constituents to discuss public-sector pay is a slap in the face for the heroes who are getting us through the pandemic, say unions.

The Conservative MP turned down an invitation from the Ipswich and District Trades Union Council to explain the economic and moral case for a keyworker pay rise.

Keyworkers from public services union UNISON, the University and Colleges Union and shopworkers’ union USDAW still attended the online meeting today to argue for a pay rise that could kickstart the economic recovery and properly reward staff in hospitals, schools, colleges shops and elsewhere for their contribution during the pandemic.

Frontline voices

UNISON’s Sarah Barber, a nurse at Ipswich Hospital and town councillor, had planned to tell Mr Hunt: “I am used to working in a stressful, challenging environment caring for patients, but the past months working at my local hospital have been the most difficult that I have ever faced.

“Having to go to work, not always having the right PPE, worrying about the impact that being exposed to Covid-19 will have on myself, friends and family, has at times been almost overwhelming. Seeing how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected my patients and community has been very hard.

“A pay rise would show me and my fellow keyworkers that we are valued, and that the hardships we have experienced and the contributions that we have made caring for our community, have been recognised and acknowledged.”

Mental health challenge

Fellow constituent Peter Oates, a UNISON rep at the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust, told the meeting: “Everything, and more importantly everyone, has been stretched to the limit because of the pandemic.

“It has been challenging for my mental health, especially as I was maintaining a hope that fair support in pay would be provided in the budget.

“If there is no real pay rise then public sector workers will not have confidence in buying, will not invest, and will struggle to feel psychologically safe.”

Hunt must sign

Ipswich and District TUC president Teresa MacKay said: “It is a scandal that keyworkers are having to fight for £10 an hour when many are putting their own health and safety on the line by going to work.

“Keyworkers – in both the public and private sectors – deserve a pay rise.

“Even if Tom Hunt won’t meet us to hear first-hand why keyworkers deserve a pay rise, we hope he’ll still add his voice to the calls for Chancellor Rishi Sunak to provide a pay rise in the upcoming budget.”

UNISON Eastern regional secretary Tim Roberts said: “The case for a keyworker pay rise is overwhelming. Our pandemic heroes deserve more recognition than a round of applause.

“It makes economic sense too – money in key workers’ pockets will be spent in local high streets and help lead an economic recovery.

“Why is Tom Hunt refusing to engage with these keyworkers – his constituents? It’s a slap in the face for people who have given their all over the past year.”

The TUC is campaigning across the country for a keyworker pay rise and wants you to take part.

Get involved