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Local government :: Pay
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CaSWO started in response to the PPE crisis that emerged at the beginning of the pandemic and was initially called the Care Workers Coronavirus Action Group.
The failures of our social care system, however, predate coronavirus. While we were brought together by this issue, the scope of our meetings and ambitions quickly grew.
We are trade unionists and one of our demands is for trade union recognition for all care and support workers. A lot of us are very involved in union organising within our workplaces and active in our branches. However, we have also found it challenging at times to do the sort of organising we felt was needed within the structures of our individual unions.
While social care has been historically difficult to organise, we are increasingly part of the conversation. We are a workforce that is 1.5 million strong and growing, and there is an increased recognition that, while it is challenging, we are far from unorganisable!
Union membership in the sector remains low and there are sections of the workforce we are failing to reach, but we are optimistic that trade union leaders are prepared to engage with the challenge.
There are a lot of issues to tackle, but paying us more would be an excellent start! The average care worker receives £8.50 per hour. Last year, 73% of care workers received less than the Living Wage. In London, it was 90%. The Supreme Court's March 2021 ruling on sleep shifts also means that we are the only UK workers who are legally paid below the minimum wage while in the workplace.
Even those of us 'lucky' enough to be receiving a Living Wage are still struggling because the wage set by the Living Wage Foundation is still too low. CaSWO believes our work is worth no less than £15 per hour. This would bring us up to the average UK income.
In the past six months, we've already seen lots of care and support workers striking.
In April, the North London Sage workers went on strike demanding £12 per hour, full sick pay, and union recognition. Not long after, workers at the homelessness charity, St Mungo's, followed suit, this time around issues of bullying. As union membership and confidence grow amongst the workforce, I believe we will see more care and support workers taking industrial action.
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Article dated 25 August 2021
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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