Greater Manchester care workers have won the Living Wage Foundation’s prestigious Living Wage Campaign of the Year award after coming together to secure the Foundation Living Wage across six councils.
The UNISON-led campaign, titled Greater Manchester Care Workers Demand a Pay Rise, was targeted at Greater Manchester councils to pressure them to provide the Foundation Living Wage (currently £9.90) to all directly employed and commissioned social care workers.
The campaign was launched in Living Wage Week in November 2021 and was successful in six out of ten Manchester councils. Rochdale was the first council to commit last year, with Manchester, Salford, Oldham, Stockport and Bolton councils committing in 2022.
This should see a pay rise for around 25,000 hard-working care workers, transferring approximately £19million directly into their pockets over the next year.
Campaigners received the award – presented by Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham – from the Living Wage Foundation at an awards ceremony in London on Tuesday.
However, the campaign is still ongoing as many employers are refusing the claim and pass on the uplift that has been offered to them by councils.
Mediline, a provider of supported living services commissioned by Manchester City Council, has told its staff that it has declined the offer of additional funding from the council to pay the Foundation Living Wage on the basis that it cannot do so on a “commercially sustainable footing”.
Despite Mediline’s claims it cannot afford a pay rise for staff, the company reported an operating profit of £2.1million in the 2020/21 financial year. This represents an increase in profit on the previous year of over 150% and a £3,500 profit per employee.
Prioritising profit over staff welfare
UNISON North West regional organiser Dan Smith said: “This award is recognition for hundreds of care workers across Greater Manchester who have come together in UNISON to build a public campaign supported by thousands of people, and pressured their employers and councils to win a pay rise.
“Care workers have gone above and beyond during the pandemic to care for our loved ones, but they’re now faced with a cost-of-living crisis as wages are not keeping up with the cost of food, housing, petrol, gas, electricity or other basic essentials.
“Many local councils have made the commitment to the Foundation Living Wage – but too many providers are refusing to pass this money on to frontline staff. It’s an absolute outrage that some providers are prioritising their own profit above the welfare and dignity of their staff.
“It’s time for councils to take action to ensure contracted providers pay their staff the money they deserve.
“The Foundation Living Wage needs to be made an essential contractual requirement in all commissioning, and where providers refuse, councils need to take whatever action is necessary to guarantee that care workers receive a decent wage, including looking at options to bring services back in-house.”
UNISON member Jane Hallam, a care worker, said: “The Foundation Living Wage is a great first step but the cost of living continues to rise and my wages no longer cover the cost of travel or petrol.
“Employers need to increase mileage rates and pay travel time and occupational sick pay to give us the support we need and stop care workers leaving the sector.”