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Valuing our key workers

  • by JW

“Those working in the sectors which are facing shortages now were applauded as essential workers a year ago.”


If you’re a “key worker”, now is the perfect storm.


In low-wage economy South West, it is now almost impossible to find somewhere to live, as reported in today’s Devon Live:

Cornwall and Devon seaside towns decimated by rent shortage – Devon Live

And these are key workers who are being directly affected:

Royal Cornwall Hospital warns housing crisis is affecting recruitment | ITV News West Country

This ‘crisis’ has been worsening over the summer:

Tory anger as second homes in holiday locations force out key workers | News | The Sunday Times

And it’s a crisis made worse by a low-wage economy:

Seasonal workers find that their one, two or three casual jobs can dry up after summer. Sands shift quickly in a “gig” economy, so workers must budget enough money to last them through the low season.

Young people are often hardest hit. Dolly Laity is from St Ives, though she now studies at a university in London. The 19-year-old is affable and approachable, perhaps due to years spent in customer service roles. “I’ve worked in cleaning, I’ve worked in restaurants, I’ve worked in cafés. I’ve worked locally and in places further out like St Erth,” she says. “But in the winter, you can’t work. There’s no work. You’ve just got to hope that you make enough over the summer to last through the winter.” 

“The job opportunities here aren’t spectacular if you don’t want to work in a restaurant or a boat. On the one hand, this business survives off tourism, so tourists are paying my bills. But on the other hand, you get houses down here that are going for millions and no one can afford to buy a house. The rent down here is the same as London in a lot of cases. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford a house down here until I’ve got money.” 

A tale of two Cornwalls: Food banks amid luxury holiday lets | Poverty and Development | Al Jazeera


And now in the latest area of labour shortage, there’s talk of enticing people into these ‘key jobs’ – but it’s not going to happen:

‘EU truckers will NOT help Britain out of the s**t they created themselves’: union chief dashes hope | Daily Mail Online

Supply crisis: Plan to give 10,000 foreign workers temporary visas in run-up to Christmas not enough, business leaders say | Politics News | Sky News

Over the months, it has proved very difficult to attract workers into these ‘key industries’:

The fruitless saga of the UK’s ‘Pick for Britain’ scheme | Brexit | Al Jazeera

Farm offering workers £240 a day to pick broccoli and cabbage – Devon Live

All of this has built up to such a state that we might be seeing ‘Christmas cancelled’:

Turkey farmer says suppliers will run out before Christmas – Devon Live

Retailers warn of Christmas tree shortages amid supply chain chaos – Devon Live

But it’s also in the service industries where shortages of labour are being felt:

Devon council ‘struggling’ to recruit key social workers – BBC News

Hero Devon bin men battling through major staffing problems – Devon Live


A comment in the Devon media over the weekend suggests better pay and conditions for ‘key workers’:

Currently in the UK there are vacancies for over 100’000 HGV drivers, along with a national shortage of over 120’000 car workers, 80’000 nursing vacancies and 30’000 openings for primary and nursery education professionals… Shortages in other areas are also caused by workers leaving due to poor pay and conditions.

For example, 150 bus drivers have left Stagecoach in Devon, over low pay and conditions. Employers are using Brexit and the pandemic as an excuse to attack workers pay and conditions.

Those working in the sectors which are facing shortages now were applauded as essential workers a year ago.

The shortage of workers has been made worse by the pandemic and Brexit, but the real cause is years of not paying workers a fair wage. Companies struggling to recruit are able to find the extra money to pay workers when they are desperate, with some even offering bonuses.

Decent pay, terms and conditions will reduce shortage of workers | Mid-Devon Advertiser

See also:

Rural Housing Week – and housing rural key workers – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Bulls**t jobs vs key worker jobs – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Labour shortages: of declining wages and working conditions – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Do we really want to ‘go back to normal’? 1: the future of work – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Valuing our bin collectors – Vision Group for Sidmouth