'I was hit by Covid twice' - Norwich key workers demand fair pay

Chloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Chloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North. Picture: Neil Didsbury - Credit: Archant

“Whatever happened to a fair day's work for a fair day's pay?” That was the question from key workers to a Norfolk MP. 

Workers from hospitals, Norfolk County Council, libraries, Barchester Care and schools presented their covid experiences to North Norwich MP, Chloe Smith. 

Many expressed disappointment that after all the claps for carers events they were not better rewarded for their hard work. 

Carl Wright, a care home worker at Barchester Healthcare, who had been in the job for just nine months when Covid hit, spoke of how he had been hit by Covid twice. 

“Luckily, I'm a thin, white, fairly-young man and I have come out the bad sides of it,” he said. 

Chloe Smith meeting key workers

Chloe Smith meeting key workers - Credit: Archant

“But several colleagues and I've all had it, and it's it wasn't a very nice ride for us or the residents.  

“We’ve stuck to our disciplined procedures and we’re blessed that we have not lost in our home the sorts of stories we have had in others.” 

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Mr Wright said that his pay was just over £9 an hour and struggled with the cost of living. 

“We get this argument that you're low paid because you're low skilled and then it's sort of a circular argument where you're low skilled because you're low paid and, to be honest, it doesn't really cut it anymore.” 

Gawain Little, a primary school teacher working with vulnerable children at Locksley School, in Tuckswood, said staff had been hit by Covid.

He said: “I know at least one person who's died and that’s had a big impact on myself and my colleagues.” 

Mr Little said this had increased the fear and anxiety at the school, and without the staff, many of the children would not have been safe. 

Mr Little said a 0pc pay rise was effectively a pay cut, describing it as a “slap in the face” for staff who had worked hard to protect children. 

Highlighting the work of school support staff, Mr Little said he knew some were having to take second jobs because they were not getting paid enough. 

Concerns over low pay were echoed by Barbara Snelling, a school science technician, who said the country would have ground to halt if not for the key workers keeping everything going. 

Julie, who works for Norfolk Libraries, said: “It's been tiring on every level mentally and physically with no reflection or even a cost-of-living pay increase this year. 

“Whatever happened to a fair day's work for a fair day's pay?” 

Many spoke of the fear that people were leaving the profession and the knock-on effect this will have for other staff and the people they treat and teach. 

Chloe Smith committed to writing to Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, to convey their requests for pay rises. 

Following the meeting, Ms Smith thanked everyone for sharing their experiences but warned public finances are tight. 

“I think it is sensible to be honest, though, that we are looking at some very difficult times ahead in the economy. 

“Everyone also knows that the public finances are now really tight because of what has had to be spent in the pandemic.  

“I think also everyone understands that many people outside the public sector have lost their jobs or lost money, and so any decisions about pay rises have to be fair to all kinds of workers and taxpayers.”