Poll: Welsh public back strike action for key workers to win a fair pay rise

UNISON Cymru Wales convenor Dave Rees. Photo credit: Natasha Hirst

Thousands of healthcare workers, school support staff and council workers campaigning to secure a fair pay rise, have received a big boost with today’s (Monday) release of opinion polling data showing the Welsh public is behind them.

Welsh people overwhelming want key workers, who have supported their communities throughout the Covid pandemic, to receive a higher pay rise and they would back the workers in taking strike action to further their cause.

A Savanta ComRes poll of 1,009 people, commissioned by public services union, UNISON Cymru Wales, found: –

  • 73 per cent of Welsh people say after ten years of pay freezes and caps, public service workers deserve a higher pay rise
  • 51 per cent of Welsh adults would support public service workers going on strike to receive a higher pay rise. Just 29 per cent would oppose this.

Healthcare workers, school staff and council workers belonging to UNISON are currently voting on how they want to oppose below-inflation pay offers. The union says strike action is a real possibility.

Dave Rees, UNISON Cymru Wales convenor, said,

“Working people are very worried about how increased living costs swallow so much of their wages each month, but politicians just don’t get it.

“They should be embarrassed about offering healthcare assistants, school cooks, refuse workers and thousands more, a pay rise way below the rate of inflation that will do nothing to help them get by.

“Welsh people recognise an injustice when they see one. They know it was NHS staff, care workers, teaching assistants and many more who kept their communities running through Covid.

“Public service workers are giving their all. We don’t work in hospitals or schools to get rich quick and we don’t mend your roads or collect your rubbish for an easy life. We deserve to be treated with respect and offered a significant, above-inflation pay rise.”

Karen Loughlin, UNISON Cymru Wales regional secretary, said,

“We want politicians in the Senedd and Westminster to reflect on these polling results and recognise they have dropped the ball.

“You don’t reward key workers – the backbone of the nation throughout Covid, with derisory pay offers. You invest in them.

“There’s one message public service workers repeat: ‘clapping doesn’t pay the bills’ and they are so angry they are considering whether to take strike action, many for the first time in their lives.

“Public service workers are the glue keeping Welsh communities together. UNISON’s plea to our political leaders is, come back to the negotiating table with a fair pay offer.”

Notes for editors

Savanta ComRes interviewed 1,009 Welsh adults aged 18+ online between 7 and 18 October 2021. Data were weighted to be representative of Wales by age, gender, region and social grade.
Q. To what extent, if at all, do you agree or disagree with the following statements? Base: All respondents (n=1,009)
After ten years of pay freezes and caps, public service workers deserve a higher pay rise
Strongly agree
Some-what agree
Neither agree nor disagree
Some-what disagree
Strongly disagree
Don’t know
NET: Agree
NET: Dis-agree
Q. To what extent, if at all, would you support or oppose public service workers, (including NHS, school support and police staff who worked throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to support communities) going on strike to receive a higher pay rise? Base: All respondents (n=1,009)
Strongly support
Somewhat support
Neither support nor oppose
Somewhat oppose
Strongly oppose
Don’t know
NET: Support
NET: Oppose
  • UNISON’s school and local government members across the UK are currently voting on whether to take industrial action. They have been offered a pay rise of 1.75 per cent (2.75% to those on the lowest pay point). The balloting period runs from 1 December to 14 January
  • UNISON’s NHS Wales members are currently voting on whether to accept a revised offer from Welsh government. They have been asked if they wish to accept the award or reject it, recognising a majority vote in favour of rejection will result in a ballot for industrial action. The balloting period runs for 8 November to 10 December
  • Following a vote of UNISON health members in September by 87.4% against Welsh government’s original 3% pay increase, the Health minister returned with a revised offer: –
  • A one off non-consolidated additional payment of 1 per cent for those on bands 1-5, and the F1 doctors who fall into this pay band. This payment would not be pro rata.
  • An additional day’s annual leave for all employed NHS staff.
  • To put resource behind a partnership group that looks at ‘staff welfare’ and bring together new initiatives and existing best practice.
  • Allow staff to sell back their unused annual leave from their carryover from 20/21 plus a proportion of leave from 21/22.


  • Public service workers have endured a decade of pay freezes or low pay awards because of UK government austerity.



Alastair Gittins, UNISON Cymru Wales press officer 07816 53 83 97