Ethical Care Campaign and Living Wage

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2014 Local Government Service Group Conference
1 January 2014

Conference welcomes the progress of the Local Government Service Group’s Ethical Care Campaign. The campaign highlights how low wages and poor terms and conditions for workers undermines the quality and safety of the service and the dignity of service users, and urges local authorities to sign up to UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter. The Charter addresses issues such as pay, sick pay, travel time, zero hours contracts and training. It includes commitments to stop commissioning services on the basis of ’15 minute’ packages of care or at prices which are bound to lead to a poor quality of care and/or low wages and working conditions. The campaign has contributed significantly to a far higher political and media profile for the effects on service users of these commissioning practices.

A number of councils now commission homecare according to our Ethical Care Charter, leading to improved working conditions and better care outcomes. Conference applauds those Employers who have signed up to UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter. Renfrewshire Council are the first in Scotland to do so. This involved an enormous amount of work on the part of stewards and officers to get the politicians on board, regardless of the lack of support from the Chief Officials at the Council. In addition, we have an undertaking from the Council that any out of house employers within this service should apply the Living Wage.

It also welcomes

1) The launch of UNISON’s “Pay Up for Travel Time” campaign and the successful legal challenges which have established that travelling time between service users’ homes is work time and must be paid.

2) Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC)exposure of the growing number of social care employers not complying with National Minimum Wage legislation by not paying for travelling time, not paying for training time, unlawful deductions and other practices and it welcomes the new rules to name employers to whom HMRC has issued Notices of Underpayment. UNISON’s work was a major factor in Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the enforcement body for the national minimum wage, carrying out a special investigation into NMW compliance in the social care sector. It made inquiries into 224 employers in the sector for the period April 2011 – March 2013 and found non-compliance in 48% of those inquiries. Further, UNISON lobbying and campaigning has led to the government agreeing to issue statutory guidance for councils on travel time.

3) The splendid results of the UNISON Northern Ireland Home Care Project where innovative approaches have trebled the number of home care workers in membership.

4) The support of other organisations, including the National Pensioners Convention, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and United for All Ages, for the Charter.

5) The “Guidance on human rights for commissioners of home care” issued by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2013.

Conference recalls the resolution of last year’s conference on the Ethical Care Campaign.

The campaign puts recruiting and organising the workforce at its heart and highlights how low wages and poor terms and conditions for home care workers undermines the reliability of the service for users and service users’ human rights.

Conference reaffirms that the pay and working conditions of the local government care workforce – 80% of whom are outsourced – is a national scandal, and notes with alarm the growing use of zero hours contracts in the care sector.

Care workers are predominantly women and include a high proportion of migrant workers and workers from across equalities groups, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers. Conference notes that part and parcel of this campaign is our campaign for a living wage.

It is estimated that in excess of 200,000 homecare workers are routinely paid less than the National Minimum Wage mainly through non-payment of travel time. Not only is this practice illegal, but it helps drive high staff turnover in the sector and can also lead to visits being shortened, both of which harm standards of care.

Conference deplores this practice and condemns the factors that lead to it: underfunding by governments, poor council commissioning practices, unscrupulous business practices and the lack of meaningful enforcement action by HMRC.

The Service Group’s Pay Up For Travel Time campaign can help to end this illegal practice. It is also a great recruitment tool and will help branches engage with the wider Ethical Care Campaign. Branches have been provided with comprehensive mapping information about their local homecare providers, along with the tools to help them engage with the homecare workforce over the issue.

Conference congratulates those local government branches that have already taken action on the Pay Up For Travel Time Campaign. Conference notes that Hampshire branch found one provider paying workers as little as £3.50 an hour because they do not pay for travel time, and charging workers £7 for a £20 payday loan for one week to buy petrol for their company car, which equates to an annual percentage rate of more than 17,000%. Conference further notes that good work by the branch and the region has seen union density reaching 90%.

However, despite all these achievements listed above the position remains unaltered in the great majority of local authorities, which deliberately under-fund the commissioning of home care distorting the market and driving it ever downward. Nor have many local government branches made much headway recruiting and organising the growing home care workforce.

Conference urges again that all councils commit to commission home care services which meet the standards of the charter, in particular to:

a) Commission services based on users’ needs not workers’ time, end the scandal of fifteen-minute visits, end “call-cramming” and give workers enough time for the human contact and care people deserve.

b) End the practice of commissioning from large numbers of providers without guaranteeing work from one week to the next so that providers cannot guarantee hours to their staff.

c) Refrain from commissioning from providers which do not pay the Living Wage, which make unlawful deductions from wages for items like uniforms, which impose zero-hours contracts, which do not pay for travel time or training time or which fail to offer staff an appropriate range of training, and,

d) Rebuild a local authority sector in home care with in-house services which offer an excellent standard, accountability, an organised and trained workforce and where none of the resources are creamed off as profit for shareholders.

Conference considers that achieving UNISON’s objectives widely will need sustained local campaigning based upon:

i) Learning the lessons of the Northern Ireland project to recruit and organise a scattered workforce with rapid turnover where there are many small employers mainly in the private sector.

ii) Linking workforce demands with the needs, experiences and aspirations of service users and strengthening UNISON’s links with appropriate pensioners’ organisations, charities etc. to help do so.

iii) Ensuring equality and diversity issues arising both among the workforce and among service users are addressed appropriately, and,

iv) Building local coalitions to exert influence upon councils seeking support from each section of the Political Fund as appropriate.

Conference congratulates those branches that have raised the Charter with their councils, taken up the Pay Up for Travel Time campaign and undertaken campaigns for the introduction of a living wage.

Conference notes that these campaigns work best when they involve developing alliances with service user organisations, community and equality groups. Conference notes that the self-organised groups are well placed to assist with such links and with recruitment in the very large homecare workforce, estimated to be over 350,000 in England alone.

Conference therefore instructs the Service Group Executive, in liaison with the national self-organised groups to:

A. Prioritise the Pay Up For Travel Time campaign by providing regular advice, guidance and campaign materials.

B. Ensure that the campaign contains a strong emphasis on recruitment, to help us build the union in homecare and maximise our strength and influence among homecare workers.

C. Encourage Regions and branches to engage with the campaign and to develop alliances with local service user and community groups to build support for the adoption of the Charter.

D. Encourage and promote communication between branches and regions to share success stories and lessons learned in order to promote our Ethical Care Charter and campaign effectively

E. Use the Pay Up For Travel Time campaign to encourage branches to take forward the wider Ethical Care Campaign by negotiating over their local council’s wider homecare commissioning practices.

F. Continue to campaign for improved pay and conditions for homecare workers which do not include zero hours contract clauses, alongside the Low Pay Commission, Age UK, community organisations such as Citizens UK.

G. Work to build the coalition of organisations supporting the Charter and to develop alliances with service user organisations, community and equality groups, and to work with organisations such as the regional arms of Citizens UK to develop Living Wage campaigns targeted at home care.

H. Continue to work in pursuit if the action points adopted last year

I. Work with the Self-Organised Groups to seek to ensure that equality and diversity issues including those of migrant workers are addressed appropriately

J. Work with National Executive Council to seek to ensure that:

I. The Ethical Care Campaign is given an appropriate priority in regions and relevant local government branches.

II. Guidance and campaign material and other resources are available to mount campaigns in line with i) – iv) above and to support local government branch and regional campaigns on the living wage;

III. Work with Labour Link to encourage Labour councils to adopt the Charter

IV. Work is put in hand with Labour Link to encourage the Labour Party and Shadow Ministers to adopt the Ethical Care Charter in local authorities, promote an adequate and sustainable funding regime for social care, to commit to issuing human rights guidance to local authorities etc. with respect to social care and to extending the definition of “public function” under the Human Rights Act 1998 to include home care provided by the private and voluntary sectors.