Care Workers vs COVID-19
Over the past six months, we have been at the forefront in the struggle against COVID-19. Despite inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE), broken promises around testing and poverty wages, we have put ourselves at risk to care for your loved ones.
Within the North West, however, we have also been on the frontline in the fight for better working conditions through our Care Workers vs COVID-19 Campaign.
From signing our petition to meeting with politicians. From organising online meetings to speaking to the media. From social media posts to making viral videos. From recruiting our colleagues to lobbying local councillors. Thousands of us have taken action to demand access to testing, appropriate PPE and, crucially, full normal pay for all coronavirus-related absence. We have achieved so much.
1) Nearly 3,000 new social care members have joined UNISON in the North West during the campaign.
2) Almost 4,000 care workers have made their voice heard by responding to UNISON North West surveys.
3) Over 8,000 signed our campaign petition and we have received endorsements from hundreds of councillors and MPs.
4) We have received local, regional and national coverage for our campaign.
5) Most vitally, 18 out of 23 local authorities that commission social care in the North West have signed up to the Care Workers vs COVID-19 Campaign or made commitments in line with the campaign demands.
But it’s now important that we develop our demands beyond the pandemic.
Stand Up For Social Care
Our privatised and outsourced model of social care has systematically driven down pay and conditions in order to generate private profit for multi-national care companies. Secure and well-paid jobs within local authorities have been replaced with precarious, zero hour jobs in the private sector with workers employed on bargain basement terms and conditions.
Even before coronavirus, care workers were regularly and routinely forced to come to work whilst we were ill due to the lack of occupational sick pay. This toxic mix has been brought into sharp focus during the current pandemic – but it also shows that the inherent weaknesses within our social care system cannot be resolved until we realise that the conditions of employment within social care are intrinsically linked to the quality of care and until we remove the profit-motive from the sector.
Following a survey of nearly 800 care workers across the North West, we have identified our key priorities as: an increase to our basic pay, the introduction of occupational sick pay and a voice at work through recognised trade unions.
In order to progress these demands, we are launching the next phase of our campaign: Stand Up for Social Care – End the Crisis Now! This campaign will mobilise our 20,000 social care members in the North West to reinforce commitment to the Ethical Care Charter and demand that local authorities strengthen social value commissioning to include specific measures for payment of the Foundation Living Wage, occupational sick pay, hourly rates for sleep-ins and travel time, and trade union recognition and access. No longer must private companies profit from public funds by attacking our terms and conditions.
We have launched a Stand Up for Social Care Councillors’ Network that will organise supportive councillors to advance these demands and develop proposals for in-sourcing social care services.
Who is supporting care workers to stop the spread?
Our campaign received significant support from North West politicians.
Eighteen out of twenty three North West councils have now committed to Support Care Workers to Stop the Spread- we call on all other North West councils to follow suit.
Cllr Bev Craig, Exec Member for Adult Services & Health for Manchester City Council
Cllr Gina Reynolds, Lead Member for Adult Services, Health and Wellbeing & Mayor Paul Dennett, Leader of Salford City Council
Cllr Sean Fielding, Leader of Oldham Council
Cllr Rob Polhill, Leader of Halton Council.
Cllr Andrew Western, Leader of Trafford Council.
Cllr Brenda Warrington, Leader of Tameside Council
Cllr Ian Maher, Leader of Sefton Council
Cllr Elise Wilson, Leader of Stockport Borough Council
Meanwhile, several North West MPs have already pledged their support to the campaign:
Paula Barker, MP for Liverpool Wavertree
Navendu Mishra, MP for Stockport
Angela Eagle, MP for Wallasey
Afzal Khan, MP for Gorton
Kim Johnson, MP for Liverpool Riverside
Maria Eagle, MP for Garston & Halewood
Mike Amesbury, MP for Weaver Vale
Liz Kendall, MP for Leicester West and Shadow Minister for Social Care
Andrew Gwynne, MP for Denton and Reddish
Ian Byrne, MP for Liverpool West Derby
Justin Madders, MP for Ellesmere Port & Neston
Charlotte Nichols, MP for Warrington North
Jonathan Reynolds, MP for Stalybridge and Hyde
Kate Green, MP for Stretford and Urmston
Yasmin Qureshi, MP for Bolton South East
Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth
Barbara Keeley, MP for Worsley & Eccles South