Fiona, 22, has worked as a physiotherapist at a hospital in Cumbria for 18 months. She works full time and earns just over £20,000 a year.
Fiona has to live with her parents to try and save money as she cannot afford to rent or buy anywhere. She can’t see a time in the future when this situation will change. Fiona is a rotational physio, which means she has to pay for her own petrol.
For work she can be based across Cumbria – up to 50 miles away from where she lives, which could mean a daily 100-mile trip that she would have to finance.
At present she is based 15 miles from her home and tries to car share when she can as she finds the increase in petrol costs difficult to cover.
She often has to eat into the money she is trying to save to get her own place to cover the costs of running her car.
Fiona says colleagues are alarmed about their pay not being in line with inflation and are concerned about what this means for the future.
Steve Trainer, 49, is married and lives just outside Blackpool with his wife, who works in the NHS.
He has two grown-up children. Steve has worked as a refuse collector for Fylde borough council in St Anne’s, Lancashire, for five years.
Steve’s basic salary is £15,000 but he tops this up to £21,000 a year by doing overtime and taking part in a monthly on-call rota.
Steve and his wife have noticed petrol, energy and food prices rocketing, and they recently received a gas bill of £500.
The only way that Steve could pay the bill was by asking his landlord to give him a fortnight’s grace with his rent and by borrowing money from his family.
Steve rents a bungalow with his wife as they have given up on buying a property.
With their salaries they have been offered a £90,000 mortgage but this would not buy anything in the area.
They rarely socialise as their joint monthly disposable income after food and bills is just £40.
He says many of his colleagues have taken second jobs – citing one friend who finishes work on a Friday and goes straight to a 13-hour shift as a night manager at a hotel.
Robert Fielder is a 59-year old coastguard watch assistant, based at the maritime rescue coordination centre in Brixham, Devon.
He works full time and if his allowance for working unsocial hours is included, Robert earns just over £17,500 a year.
Robert has been a coastguard for six years. Although he finds the work interesting, he says that the low wages are making other jobs on higher salaries look increasingly attractive.
When Robert completed the Office for National Statistics personal inflation calculator, his rate for April 2008 was 6.4 percent.
After paying his bills and buying food and petrol, Robert has less than £100 to live on a month. Robert hasn’t had a holiday in four years and won’t be taking one this year.
He says he goes out a lot less now and can’t remember the last time he went out or bought a new item of clothing.
Anna Brooman is a 27-year old English teacher who works at Filton high school in Bristol. Teachers in England have been offered a 2.45 percent pay rise this year, yet Anna’s personal inflation rate is currently 5.1 percent.
She owns her own home but says she was only able to get on the property ladder because her parents were able to help out.
Anna is on a low fixed-rate mortgage but is already worrying about what will happen when her mortgage deal ends next August.
She drives to work and although she has a small, fuel-efficient car says it is costing almost £10 more a month to fill up than before.
After paying her bills, she is left with just £100 a month to live on, and is having to use her credit cards to make ends meet.
Anna recently received a “golden hello” payment of £4,000, having completed her first year of teaching in a subject where there is a shortage of teachers.
She had intended to use this money to start to pay off her student debt but the growing pressure on her finances has meant she has had to use it to supplement her income.
The sum of Anna’s credit card debts, overdraft and student loan is £22,000. She resents the fact that she now has to pay back her student loan at a higher rate of interest – 4.8 percent – than her current pay offer.
Miranda Lagab is a teaching assistant at a school in Islington, north London.
She has worked at the school for four years, working 26 hours per week. Miranda takes home around £860 per month after tax.
After paying all her bills, she has worked out she is left with just £85 per month to spend on her and her family.
Miranda has three children aged 12, eight and six. She gets upset because she feels they are missing out on things at school.
She has stopped them having school lunches, finding it cheaper for them to take packed lunches. She finds it difficult to afford school trips and other activities.
Miranda has decided to cut down her hours from September, having worked out that she will be better off by £40 per week claiming income support.
She says that although she enjoys the job and her current hours suit her childcare responsibilities, it’s simply not worth struggling along with a job that doesn’t pay enough to support her family.
Sadie Watson, 34, is a senior archaeologist working for the Museum of London’s field archaeology service.
She is currently on a dig in the City of London uncovering aspects of Roman and medieval London.
On an annual salary of £21,000, Sadie still earns too little to begin making repayments on her £3,000 student loan.
Sadie, who is a single mum, and her five-year old daughter live in rented accommodation in south London.
After paying her rent, childcare, energy and food costs Sadie is left with around £80 a month.
She doesn’t own a car and cycles to work to keep costs down.
Sadie hasn’t had a holiday in years and has given up any hope of ever owning her own home.
The 2007 pay settlement gave workers a 2 percent pay rise,
plus a one-off 1.5 percent lump sum. This is way below Sadie’s current personal inflation rate of 5.2 percent.
These case studies were compiled by the TUC as part of its campaign for better pay for workers » www.tuc.org.uk