Calls made to pay carers in Portsmouth 'their worth'

CALLS have been made to pay carers in Portsmouth ‘their worth’ as it was revealed it could take years to boost wages to the ‘real living’ standard.

By Fiona Callingham
Tuesday, 13th July 2021, 6:15 pm
Unions are calling on carers to be paid the real living wage of £9.50 an hour
Unions are calling on carers to be paid the real living wage of £9.50 an hour

The city council has faced criticism from unions as care staff working for them via agencies will only be upgraded to the living wage of £9.50 an hour - more than the minimum wage of £8.91 - as and when their contracts renew.

As reported, all staff directly employed by the authority are already on the higher wage, with the council pledging to make the change for contracted workers in the future.

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And a search by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) showed 30 adverts for care workers with companies commissioned by Portsmouth council from between October 2020 and April 2021, with pay below £9.50 an hour.

Council leader, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said the council was ‘committed’ to increasing the wages.

He said: ‘When that contract comes up for renewal the new contract will say you must pay the real living wage to staff working for the city council. But this will take a few years to move all the way through the different contracts – and this will be the same nationwide.

‘The only way to speed this up would meant the council has to find an extra £3.2m and we don’t have £3.2m spare.’

However, Labour Cllr Cal Corkery, who sits on the employment committee, believed this wasn’t good enough.

‘What we have asked for repeatedly is to make this a priority of the city and make sure everyone is paid a real living wage. It is calculated as the minimum level of pay people need to live on,’ he said.

‘After the contribution that carers have made over the pandemic, and the amazing work they did beforehand, we should be paying them more.’

As part of the investigation by TBIJ it was found that 37 out of 43 local authorities signed up to Unison’s ethical care charter - including Portsmouth - were advertising for care staff below the living wage.

South east organiser for union Unison, James Smith, added: ‘It is simply not right that the vital and skilled work that care staff perform for the most vulnerable in our community is rewarded with poverty pay. Nothing less than the real living wage, which reflects the true cost of living, will do for these essential workers.

‘Nationally there’s been no shortage of promises on social care, but the government has not delivered. Everyone depending on or delivering social care is tired of empty words and broken pledges.

‘And councils like Portsmouth need to play their part too. They can and must enforce higher wage levels for care providers on council contracts. Following pressure from UNISON, talks are underway now with the council to make this a reality.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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