Celebrities back call for fair pay for care workers

Joanna Lumley and comedian Jo Brand want living wage for staff

Joanna Lumley and comedian Jo Brand are backing a national campaign day today (Wednesday) organised by UNISON to urge the government to end poverty wages for care staff.

Both performers have recorded individual video messages of support for the Pay Fair for Care online rally, which is expected to be attended by care staff, politicians, unions, charities and employers.

Many employees in care homes and those looking after people in the community earn less than the real living wage of £9.50 an hour (£10.85 in London). UNISON – the biggest union representing care staff in the UK – wants ministers to ensure every care worker is on the real living wage rate as a bare minimum.

More than 21,000 people have already signed a parliamentary petition* calling for a £3.9billion special support fund to make fair pay a reality for care staff across the country.

In her message, Joanna Lumley highlights how care workers are an ‘invisible part’ of the health system and the ‘forgotten ones’.

The actor says: “I’m backing UNISON’s call for a living wage for all care workers. They seem to be the invisible part of our nation’s health system.

“It seems massively unfair they’re the forgotten ones. These people who do so much for so many people, so selflessly, 24/7.

“Thanks to you, you’re keeping the country going. So, bless your sweet hearts and, as Patsy would say, ‘Cheers, sweeties. Thanks a lot’.”

In her video, Jo Brand says: “In a parallel universe, dedication and hard work would be rewarded with decent pay. Unfortunately, we do not live in a parallel universe – we’re in this one.

“And care workers simply are not rewarded for the very, very hard work they do. Especially in these really, really difficult times. All I’m here to do is to say pay care workers a living wage.”

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Care staff have been applauded as national heroes. But Covid has forced them into life-threatening working conditions and caused untold mental strain.

“The vast majority don’t even earn a living wage and cannot comfortably feed their families or pay the rent. The message to ministers is that it’s time care staff got a fair deal.”

Notes to editors: 
-The Pay Fair for Care rally takes place on Facebook from 12.30-2pm on Wednesday 3 February. Click here for more details, here to watch the video message from Joanna Lumley, and here for Jo Brand’s.
-The event is co-hosted by the Future Social Care Coalition, a cross-party alliance of more than 80 organisations and individuals. Members include former ministers Andy Burnham, Sir Norman Lamb and Alistair Burt as well as the National Care Association, the Care and Support Alliance and UNISON. Christina McAnea is co-chair of the Coalition.
-*Click here for more details on the petition which was started by Sian Stockham, a care worker and UNISON vice president.
-UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.