87% of local government workers struggling with stress

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A survey of more than 14,000 local government workers by UNISON, the UK’s largest union, reveals that a staggering 87% are struggling to cope with increased stress and pressure at work.

A toxic cocktail of declining staff numbers (70%) and increasing expectations from public (61%) and employers (82%), is piling on the pressure say workers.

72% say stress is affecting how well they can do their jobs, and 70% say that workplace stress is affecting their personal life.

The union is urging the government to slow down the multi-billion pound cuts currently hitting councils. The toll of job losses has already hit 250,000, making it difficult to provide services which are in high demand as communities struggle to cope with the recession.

The union is calling on employers, currently consulting on a pay offer, to recognise that councils cannot function without their dedicated workforce, and to ease the pressure of the three year long pay freeze.

Freezing pay as inflation remains high has left local government workers battling to make ends meet. Pay has fallen by 15% in real terms since the coalition took office. Only 40% questioned by UNISON now feel that they are paid fairly for the work that they do.

Heather Wakefield, head of local government at UNISON, said: “Working in local government is like living in a pressure cooker and eventually the lid will blow off. Workers can’t take any more.

“Multi-billion pound cuts, and 250,000 job losses as calls for services increase, means impossible demands are being placed on stressed out council workers.

“And the stress at home continues. The pay freeze means it’s a constant financial juggling act as red bills pile in and wages just don’t match up.

“The government has to ease the pressure on councils, allow them to pay staff a rise this year and slow the cuts and closures to give the public the services they need in this hour of need.”

Key findings

– Since 2010, 87% say pressure has increased, whilst the majority (70%) say that the number of staff has decreased.

– The majority (61%) of staff say that service users have increased their expectations.

– 82% say that employers have also increased their expectations.

– 72% say stress is affecting how well they can do their jobs.

– 70% say stress at work is affecting their personal life.

– 60% say they are not paid fairly for the work they do.

– 53% have personal debts, with 55% owing more than £5,000.

– Worryingly,11% owe more than £20,000.

14,756 people were surveyed who work in councils across England, Wales and Northern Ireland between January 23 and February 11, 2013.

Local government workers provide a range of essential services in our communities including rubbish collection, home care, social work, building inspection and environmental health. They work in leisure centres, libraries, in welfare and benefit offices, as school crossing staff, and as dinner ladies.

The majority of local government workers are part time, low paid women. 75% earn less than £21,000.

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