UNISON vice president Julia Mwaluke has been a support worker in Salford for the past 12 years, where she’s also been key in organising to win the Living Wage Foundation’s living wage for care workers in the area since 2020.
That saw her and the Salford City UNISON care worker organising committee recognised by the foundation in its annual awards last year, picking up a prize for campaign of the year (pictured above).
And earlier this year, she and the team won a massive victory when Salford Council committed to pay all care workers the foundation’s living wage, following a major campaign that included repeatedly picketing council meetings.
“At a recent council meeting I asked the politicians: “Who has ever used a food bank? Well, I use it on a regular basis, even though I work 45 hours a week,” says Ms Mwaluke.
“I’m on £10 an hour. I’ve never taken a day off sick in my life because, sick or not sick, I need the money. I must work, but it doesn’t cover my costs. I’m still struggling.”
The campaign began with research into local care companies, checking with staff to see how much they were paid. From there, the team organised those pickets of council meetings, together with demonstrations outside care homes.
One of their first local successes was with Anchor, a company that runs residential care homes in the area. Thanks to Ms Mwaluke’s and her team’s organising, that company has now agreed to pay the foundation’s living wage across all its workforce – not just in the Salford area, but nationally.
“It’s very difficult to organise in care settings,” the vice president explains. “Many of us do this work because we are naturally caring, and we do genuinely care about our service users. We can work with the same clients for five, 10, even 15 years and these people become a part of our families.”
During the pandemic, Ms Mwaluke also managed to secure COVID-19 bonus payments for carers in Manchester, which meant workers received individual bonus payments of £658.
However, the argument for employers to pay the foundation living wage isn’t just for the benefit of workers, she observes. It also benefits employers and the local community.
“Raising wages is important because it improves the mood for workers, and improves the relationship between employers and employees. Nobody wants to be undervalued and underpaid. It also boosts the local economy, as people have a bit more money to spend.