Unpaid overtime pushing public sector to ‘tipping point’

A new report from UNISON has argued that public services support staff are doing more than 40 million hours of unpaid overtime a year.

We Can’t Go on Like This says that the sum of hours worked overtime, and unpaid, is the equivalent of 25,000 extra public service staff working full time and emphasises not only how far workers are prepared to go to keep services running efficiently but also the impact of years of job cuts.

Part of the report includes a survey of nearly 1,000 support staff across the UK working in healthcare (37 per cent), education (35 per cent), local government (19 per cent), the police and justice (four per cent), and other public services (five per cent). Amid ‘intolerable pressures’ and government cuts, the union warns that staff have reached a ‘tipping point’, which could have a knock-on impact on services and local communities.

The survey highlights that 77 per cent believe they are working harder than a year ago, yet 35 per cent say cutbacks means they are much less productive than before. Additionally, staff feel demoralised and demotivated as a direct result of austerity because of increased workloads, having to do jobs they are unfamiliar with, and because their managers are unsupportive.

Dave Prentis, UNISON general secretary, said: “Support staff such as healthcare assistants and catering workers are among the lowest paid in public services. All too often they’re overlooked by politicians, despite the vital jobs they do.

“It’s no wonder they feel overworked and undervalued. Many are facing intolerable pressures because of cutbacks, which have triggered staff shortages. The government must commit to funding the jobs needed to guarantee safe, high quality services. A failure to act will undermine standards further and weaken public confidence further still.”

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