Trade union demands Wigan Council provides more support for care workers

Unison wants the town hall to sign its pledge ensuring care employees will get full sick pay if they have to shield or self-isolate due to coronavirus.
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Wigan Council said it invested £3.6m last month to support an increase in the national living wage for people working in the sector and was in talks with care providers over making sure those off ill got paid in full.

But Unison said that by declining to sign the Carers vs Covid-19 pledge the local authority was "letting down" care workers, saying other town halls in the North West have already put pen to paper to back its campaign.

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Unison North West surveyed 2,600 care workers in the region earlier in the pandemic and found widespread concern about being able to self-isolate if they developed symptoms of Covid-19, with most thinking they would not continue to be paid if they became ill.

Unison is demanding care workers receive full sick pay so they can self-isolateUnison is demanding care workers receive full sick pay so they can self-isolate
Unison is demanding care workers receive full sick pay so they can self-isolate

And the union said it was vital for slowing down and controlling the disease that those who may have Covid-19 are able to stay at home.

Care employees have told the union they have seen their income slashed if they are too unwell to go to work.

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.

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“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 while 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.”

Wigan Council lavishly praised the borough's care workers and said it was committed to supporting them through the tough times of the coronavirus outbreak.

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Deputy leader Coun Keith Cunliffe said: “Our care workers are doing a fantastic job supporting some of our most vulnerable residents every day, helping to keep them safe and well, in what are extremely difficult circumstances. We are very proud and fortunate to have such a kind and caring workforce and will do everything we can to keep them safe and well too.

“We recognise that many homes will be concerned about the financial impact of Covid-19 and we will work with our local care providers to understand what more we can do to support and provide financial reassurance to carers in these testing times.

"We believe our carers deserve to be rewarded for the excellent job they do, and last month we invested an additional £3.6m to support the increase in the national living wage for our social care workforce.

"In addition, we are currently in discussions with providers to see what more support we can give to ensure that care staff can get full sick pay for any Covid-19 related absences.

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“We will continue to work with our local care providers to implement a range of support measures to help protect people’s health and livelihoods.”

However, one Wigan worker told Unison their pay had been substantially reduced after becoming ill.

The care employee said: “I started experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, I had a temperature while 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.

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"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 Council said it had made huge efforts to source personal protective equipment (PPE) for care workers, spending £400,000 of its own budget alongside the national procurement arrangements.

It said it had provided half a million extra items of PPE and had also set up testing for care workers and their families.

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Unison said councils including Manchester, Trafford, Cheshire West and Chester, Knowsley, Sefton, and Halton have signed up to its Care Workers vs Covid-19 pledge, which ensures that carers health, families, employment and pay will all be protected.

Others have put in place financial packages to support sick pay, with one town hall guaranteeing all care workers a rise to at least the real living wage of £9.30 per hour.