Local care workers have expressed their disappointment that Wigan Council have refused to sign a pledge to protect carers during the ongoing pandemic.
A rising number of councils in the North West - including Manchester, Trafford, Cheshire West and Chester, Knowsley, Sefton, and Halton - have signed up to the Care Workers vs COVID-19 pledge, which pledges that councils will protect carers health, families, employment and pay.
The primary commitment for councils who sign up to the pledge is to protect the pay of care workers who need to self-isolate or shield due to coronavirus.
As well as the councils who have signed the pledge, Salford City Council, Liverpool City Council and Wirral Council have all delivered substantial financial packages to support local care workers in relation to sick pay. Wirral Council has gone even further, guaranteeing all care workers a pay rise to at least the real Living Wage of £9.30 per hour.
A UNISON survey of 2600 care workers in the North West found that a key issue for carers was the fear that they would be unable to self-isolate due to COVID-19 as a result of the lack of comprehensive sick pay schemes in the sector, which could put vulnerable staff and service users at risk if unwell carers continued to attend work.
8 out of 10 care workers who responded to the survey think they will not be paid their normal wages if they have to self-isolate due to COVID-19. The care workers who responded to the survey have since formed the Care Workers vs COVID-19 campaign and formulated the pledge for local councils in order to protect carers and the vulnerable people they care for.
One Wigan care worker said: “I started experiencing symptoms of Coronavirus- , I had a temperature whilst still at work. I came home feeling really bad, I was struggling with my breathing so I had to self-isolate.
“I self-isolated for two weeks so it has really affected my income. I had a big deduction to my wages. Knowing the huge financial hardship this was going to cause me, I did wonder if I should just try to go to work even though I was unwell.
“I stayed off but now I’m struggling financially. Other care workers faced with the same choice might take the risk of going to work, so care workers need to be guaranteed full sick pay.
“We do one of the hardest jobs- I walk for over an hour to work to avoid getting public transport and the risk of transmitting the virus to service users. We dedicate ourselves to making a difference to people’s lives.”
Wigan Local Government UNISON branch secretary Kay Winnard said: "Despite weeks of negotiations, Wigan Council have refused to make a firm financial commitment to care workers or sign up to the Care Workers vs COVID-19 pledge.
“In failing to do so, they are letting down local carers, but they are also potentially fuelling the spread of coronavirus as care workers face the difficult choice between attending work whilst symptomatic, or face poverty.
“These workers demonstrate care and compassion to the most vulnerable members of our community and they risk their lives to do so, this must be properly recognised by the local authority. Applause and thank you messages are of no comfort when are local care workers struggle to provide for their families due to the pandemic.
“As numerous other North West Councils have made this commitment, it’s clear that Wigan Council could do more for the care workers and the vulnerable people they care for. UNISON calls on Wigan Council to support care workers to stop the spread of coronavirus.”