Survey of more than 2,500 working in the sector confirms stress, low-pay, management bullying are leading to low staff morale and mental health challenges
Unite Equalities Officer, Taryn Trainor, called for workers in the community and voluntary sector to join her union after revealing the regionalised results of a UK and Ireland-wide survey which demonstrated serious workplace problems across a range of indicators.
“Unite received more than 2,500 responses to an online survey of those working in the community and voluntary sector. The results were truly startling – on a wide range of indicators, employees in the sector here are reporting significantly more problems than elsewhere in the UK and Ireland.
“Three in five Northern Ireland workers reported that they thought their work was insecure compared to two in five in both Britain and the Republic of Ireland while almost three-quarters reported that their pay had failed to keep pace with inflation again significantly more than equivalent figures elsewhere.
“56 percent of workers here thought their organisation was not well-managed, compared to 43 percent in GB and 37 percent in ROI. While 53 percent thought they were not valued at work – compared to only 34 percent in GB and 21 percent in ROI. Similar results were obtained when it came to assessing whether their employer provided equal pay for equal work (a 15 percent gap) and whether their workplace was a safe and healthy one (a more than 10 percent gap); disparities were found in regard to satisfaction with pay levels, annual leave and workplace stress.
“Just short of half of Northern Ireland respondents reported that their work was bad for their mental health – significantly higher than the equivalent and already shocking figures for GB and ROI, 40 percent and 34 percent respectively. More than a quarter of respondents in Northern Ireland said morale in their workplace was ‘terrible’ – among GB workers that was only one in eight and less than one in ten in the Republic of Ireland. Four out of five workers here had considered leaving their job – compared to only three out of five in Britain and one in two in the Republic. 37 percent reported bullying, harassment or discrimination from their bosses, compared to only 27 percent and 18 percent respectively elsewhere.
“These statistics are proof positive that there is a real and serious problem in Northern Ireland’s community and voluntary sector. Part of the reason for this is the impact of austerity policies which have disproportionately impacted the sector, as well as the short-term way in which under funding is provided; but in my experience it also reflects very poor management practices, where workers in the sector are expected to accept worse treatment and pay than they would expect from the private sector. The only way for workers in community and voluntary sector to defend their interests in this situation is to join a trade union and get involved to build its strength in their workplace”, Ms Trainor said.