This week we had TUC: Congress 2021, with a packed agenda and plenty of debates and discussions. The line-up of guest speakers included leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer, and on the final day there was recognition of the outstanding achievements of dedicated trade union reps who stepped up to the challenges of the pandemic.
Our very own Amanda Burley, CEC member and Branch Secretary of Leeds Civic branch seconded a motion calling on better investment in public services. In her speech Amanda said: “Public services are part of the fabric which holds our society together. They belong to us…formed from generations of struggle by working people for a better society which holds the wellbeing of all at its heart. From cradle to grave, and all the moments in between, we rely on these public services which are founded on those values - our values.
Thousands of our members have put their own lives on the line as key workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. For doing so, they were applauded by politicians in power. But they are now being left unrecognised, disrespected, and unrewarded. The pandemic tore apart any pretence that we have a fair and safe social care system. Not for service users and not for the workers.
The average care worker in England was paid just £8.50 an hour last year, only 41 pence more in real terms than the hourly wage seven and a half years ago. Years of outsourcing and underfunding has left our social care system in pieces. A third of care workers are now on zero hours contracts, rising to half in London. And as GMB research shows, one in ten care workers are in receipt of in-work benefits. It should be a source of national shame that the dedicated care workers who kept our most vulnerable alive during the pandemic are paid so badly they are on Universal Credit. Our care sector is already facing up to 170,000 vacancies by the end of the year and a mandatory vaccine that could force thousands more away. With the Government’s plan to slash Universal Credit payments by £20 a week in October, we are heading for a perfect storm.
GMB is campaigning for £15 an hour minimum for care workers, it is the least they deserve. Because any credible plan for the future of social care must give proper pay, terms and conditions to the staff doing the work. But instead of real investment to tackle the huge crisis in social care, the sector has been left with just £500 million for directly addressing workforce needs under the Government’s new Health and Care Levy. This crisis was not caused by public sector workers. It was caused by the failed ideology of successive governments that know the price of everything but the value of nothing. But our members know their worth. £15 an hour is not a lofty aspiration – it’s pay justice. It will bring care workers’ earnings in line with the average for workers across the whole economy and give them the reward and recognition they deserve. And it should come alongside urgent reform to end exploitation in care and to provide high quality services, fit for the future. A fight for fifteen is a fight for us, for our loved ones and for those who care for them.”