Essex care workers seek living wage commitment from council candidates

Care workers will make the case for a real living wage direct to Essex County Council candidates today as part of an online Citizens Assembly.

They are joining more than 100 community leaders seeking a number of commitments from candidates, including making the council an accredited Living Wage organisation, and ensuring all care contracts in the county pay at least £9.50 an hour.

UNISON is supporting the event organised by Citizens Essex, a chapter of community organisation Citizens UK.

Research from the Living Wage Foundation suggests that 71% of care workers in Essex, more than 16,000 people, are paid less than £9.50/hour.

One of the care workers looking for council support is Richard Porter from Harlow.

He said: “My main job as a carer is making sure residents’ personal care is taken care of washing, feeding dressing and hydration, as well as their mental health needs. I also work with highly advanced dementia residents.

“To me a rise to the real living wage would mean not having to worry about unexpected bills and being able to afford to eat properly myself. We are doing a professional job of care on basic minimum pay which doesn’t seem right.

UNISON Eastern social care lead Caroline Hennessy added: “Care workers were virtually abandoned at the beginning of the pandemic, left without enough PPE and dealing with years of underinvestment and under pay.

“But they battled on regardless, doing everything they could to look after Essex’s most vulnerable residents while often fearing for their own lives and safety.

“Providing these key workers with a wage they can actually afford to live on is the least we can do.”