A group of care workers and UNISON members lobbied seven Greater Manchester council leaders and Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham outside a GMCA meeting in Trafford today (Friday).
The care workers presented a petition to local authority leaders in December 2021. The petition calls on Greater Manchester’s ten local authorities to require the Foundation Living Wage (£9.90) as a minimum starting salary for all directly employed and commissioned care and support workers. The petition has received more than 4500 signatures so far.
The campaigning care workers’ efforts paid off last month when Oldham Council committed to pay the Living Wage to all care workers in the borough. Since then, Salford City Council has also joined the ranks of those ensuring care workers in their borough are paid the Living Wage, joining Rochdale Council who had already made this commitment.
Today, the care workers brought together the leaders of the other seven councils in Greater Manchester to convince them to take the step. Oldham Council Leader Cllr Arooj Shah, Salford City Council Mayor Paul Dennett and Rochdale Council leader Cllr Neil Emmott addressed the crowd, outlining why their councils chose to prioritise funding pay rises for care workers. Care workers also addressed council leaders, explaining how low pay negatively effects their lives.
Jill, a home care worker and UNISON member said: “I have been relying on a food bank for the last two years, and still use two different ones to this day. A pay rise would mean I can afford to pay my bills and not rely on the charity of others.”
Cheryl, a home care worker and UNISON member said: “Since fuel prices have sky-rocketed, I am forced to walk everywhere - to see my mum, the rest of my family and to go to the shops.
“I have to save my petrol to be able to drive between my service users because the fuel allowance has not gone up and I'm not paid for my travel time. I have to save every penny to be able to afford to do my job.”
Nuria, a support worker and UNISON member said: “I am underpaid, I cannot even think of starting a family, as the wage I currently get is barely enough to sustain myself and my cat, let alone children.”
At today’s action, Chair of Labour Party North West regional board Leigh Drennan presented an open letter to Greater Manchester Labour group leaders and GM Mayor Andy Burnham. The letter- which calls on the remaining seven councils to guarantee the Living Wage for local care workers- has been signed by over 150 high-profile regional Labour Party figures within the last two weeks, including Deputy Leader Angela Rayner and a number of other MPs.
UNISON North West Social Care Lead Dan Smith said: “We commend the decisions taken by Oldham, Salford and Rochdale councils to show care workers they are valued by guaranteeing that they are paid the real Living Wage.
“This shows that it is within Greater Manchester councils’ power to ensure that frontline workers can afford to provide for their families. We call on the remaining seven councils in the city region to take responsibility and kick poverty wages out of social care.
“Last month, dedicated care workers presented their petition to GMCA leaders. Today, a bigger group of care workers are here and UNISON has submitted a paper to the GM Leaders’ strategy meeting today. We will be back again and again until every care worker in Greater Manchester is paid a Living Wage.”