Living Wage: Greater Manchester and care workers win awards as trade union demands more action on pay rises

Greater Manchester leaders and grassroots campaign groups were both recognised at a prestigious awards ceremony.

Greater Manchester had a double awards success as both the city-region’s leaders and grassroots campaigners were recognised for their work on the living wage.

The Living Wage Foundation held its Living Wage Champion Awards in London this week and two gongs headed back to the city-region.

Greater Manchester’s leaders received the Places Award for its work ensuring fair pay for people at work, while care employees in the campaign Greater Manchester Care Workers Demand a Pay Rise scooped the prize for the best campaign of the year.

Local authorities said they were proud to be recognised, but a leading trade union said there was still more work to do to ensure everyone gets a living wage.

What awards were won by Greater Manchester organisations and why?

The Living Wage Foundation gave Greater Manchester as a whole its Places Award to recognise its leaders for their efforts to increase the number of real Living Wage Employers in the city-region and bring about pay rises for workers.

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An action group, led by the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and the chair of the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership (GM LEP), Lou Cordwell, was established in May last year to ensure everyone in the city-region is paid the living wage by the end of the decade.

Greater Manchester is the first city-region to be recognised by the Living Wage Foundation and there are currently almost 500 Living Wage Employers in the area.

Greater Manchester received the Places Award at the Living Wage Champions Awards

The Living Wage Foundation also recognised the care workers’ campaign supported by leading trade union Unison which was targeted at Greater Manchester councils to pressure them to provide the Foundation Living Wage (which is currently £9.90 an hour) to all directly employed and commissioned social care providers.

The campaign was launched in Living Week in November 2021 and was successful in six out of the 10 Manchester councils with Manchester, Salford, Oldham, Stockport, and Bolton councils all making the commitment this year, following the example of Rochdale who made the commitment last year.

Unison says the campaigners’ efforts should see a pay rise for around 25,000 care workers, transferring approximately £19 million into the pockets of care workers over the next year.

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Mr Burnham presented the care workers with their campaign accolade at the awards ceremony.

What did the Greater Manchester authorities say?

Mr Burnham said: “We’re proud to be recognised for our achievements in securing a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work for people across Greater Manchester.

“With the cost-of-living crisis having a sharp impact on communities, our Living Wage City-Region plans are more vital than ever.

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“While we’ve made great strides towards our initial targets, there’s still a lot more work to be done. Working through our Living Wage City-Region action group and Good Employment Charter, we will continue to tackle in-work poverty by making the case for the real Living Wage.”

What have campaigners and trade unions said?

While they were delighted to be recognised for their efforts, Greater Manchester Care Workers Demand a Pay Rise and Unison said there was still more to be done to ensure everyone in the sector earns enough to live on.

The trade union said some providers of social care are still not paying a living wage and they should be penalised by local authorities for not doing so, while care workers spoke of their financial worries despite having full-time jobs.

Unison North West regional organiser Dan Smith said: “This award is deserved recognition for hundreds of care workers across Greater Manchester who have come together in Unison to build a public campaign supported by thousands of people, and pressured their employers and councils to win a pay rise.

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“Care workers have gone above and beyond during the pandemic to care for our loved ones, but they’re now faced with a cost-of-living crisis as wages are not keeping up with the cost of food, housing, petrol, gas, electricity or other basic essentials.

“Many local councils have made the commitment to the Foundation Living Wage – but too many providers are refusing to pass this money on to frontline staff. It’s an absolute outrage that some providers are prioritising their own profit above the welfare and dignity of their staff.

Care workers from the Greater Manchester campaign with the city-region’s mayor Andy Burnham

“It’s time for councils to take action to ensure contracted providers pay their staff the money they deserve. The Foundation Living Wage needs to be made an essential contractual requirement in all commissioning, and where providers refuse, councils need to take whatever action is necessary to guarantee that care workers receive a decent wage, including looking at options to bring services back in-house”.

Jane, a care worker, said: “The Foundation Living Wage is a great first step but the cost of living continues to rise and my wages no longer cover the cost of travel or petrol.

“Employers need to increase mileage rates and pay travel time and occupational sick pay to give us the support we need and stop care workers leaving the sector.”

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Another care worker, Zeenat, said:I deserve this award as I have been working for cithe company for about seven years and have put my 100% in to ensure the service users are getting the care in a person -centred way.

“My job role as a support worker has many different responsibilities. We are support workers, cleaners, cooks, plumbers, admin workers and counsellors. “

What is the Living Wage?

The real Living Wage is a level of payment calculated according to what people need to make ends meet which provides a voluntary benchmark for employers wanting to ensure staff get enough money from their jobs to cope with the costs and pressures of everyday life.

The UK Living Wage is currently £9.90 per hour. There is a separate London Living Wage rate of £11.05 per hour to reflect the higher costs of transport, childcare and housing in the capital.

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These figures are calculated annually by the Resolution Foundation and overseen by the Living Wage Commission, based on evidence on living standards in London and the UK.